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** To what end do we learn of past ages^ why praise or why 

blame f Let us remember Luther^ s method of thought, his plain 

hints and his strong truths, and let us apply them to our own 



^^ Since the world delights in lie\, many will say thai I 
retracted my teachings before I died, I therefore desire most 
earnestly that you will be witnesses to my present confession of 
faith, I say it with a good conscience^ that I have taught from 
out of God*s Word, according to God^s command, to which work 
He has constrained me without my will, I have taught right 
and wholesome doctrine concerning faith and love, the cross 
and the sacraments, and other articles of Christian truth. 
Many accuse me of being too violent and severe in writing 
against papists and factious spirits, and when I castigate their 
false teachings, impious living, and hypocrisy, I have indeed 
been very violent at times, and have severely attacked my oppo- 
nents, and yet in such a manner that I never regretted it. But, 
whether I have been violent or temperate, I have never sought 
to inflict an injury nor to endanger a human soul, but have 
rather sought the welfare and salvation of every one,^^ 




On the wall of the New Museum at Berlin 
there are six great frescos, each an historical 
allegory, by means of which Kaulbach has 
sought to set before us the course of civiliza- 
tion. The jSrst represents the dispersion of 
mankind at Babel ; the last is the Era of the 
Reformation. The painter has endeavored, in 
this last great work, following the high prece- 
dent of Raphael in his " School of Athens," to 
impress upon us, by his art, the sweep and 
character of that whole varied movement which 
men call the Renaissance^ — the new birth of 
the world. This he has done by seizing, with 
wise instinct, the powerful leaders and repre- 
sentative men in the realms of scholarship and 
art, of science and discovery, war, literature, 
politics and religion, and whatever contributed 
in that notable era to the emancipation and 


enlargement of the human mind, and so group- 
ing them in relation to each other and -to a cen- 
tral truth as to teach us by a glance the deep 
organic unity of that crowded history, and how 
men and societies — thinking often little of 
each other, and through activities so different — 
were all subservient to a common end. 

Here are the great Humanists — Mirandola, 
Petrarch, Reuchlin, Erasmus, Thomas More; 
here Leonardo, Raphael, and Michael Angelo ; 
here Bruno and Bacon, Shakspere, Cervantes 
and Hans Sachs ; here Copernicus, Galileo and 
Columbus; here is Gutenberg, with hand up- 
raised, as scattering the new thought over 
the new earth ; here are the Saxon Electors, 
William the Silent, Elizabeth, Gustavus — the 
princes who backed the new thought with the 
power of the State; here is that brilliant 
galaxy of "Reformers before the Reforma- 
tion" — Wiclif, "the morning star," Arnold 
of Brescia, Peter Waldo, Savonarola, John 
Huss ; and here are Calvin, Zwingli, and 
Melanchthon. But towering above these, the 
centre of the whole great company, the point 
to which all tend and from which all radiate, 
"-•^^ands the mighty jSgure of Martin Luther, 
ig high above his head the open Bible, 
e painter did his work with a true instinct. 


It was not a better edition of Plato and a better 
grammar ; it was not better statues and more 
human madonnas ; it was not better plays and 
poems, not better theories of the stars and of 
the ocean, — it was none of these things which 
was principal in that work of the new birth 
of the world ; but it was the new birth of the 
\l soul, the reformation of religion. And, in the I , 
story of the Reformation, Martin Luther must 
ever be the central figure. " No nice criticism 
of temper or motive," says one, ** no new dis- 
covery of the worth of other men, can dispos- 
sess him of that honorable rank. His name 
has been for more than three centuries the rep- 
resentative name of the great religious move- 
I ment, and it will continue to be forever. It, 
f may be shown that Melanchthon was more 
J learned, that Carlstadt was more zealous, that 
Zwingli was purer, that Calvin was more se- 
verely logical ; but Luther will still stay as the j 
Achilles of the host which made war upon 
Rome. His life will be an epitome of the his- 
tory of reform. All the rest, to gain signifi- 
cance, must be grouped around him. He is as 
(central and essential as the figure of the Christ Ij' 
in the picture of the ' Last Supper.' " 

Undoubtedly, Luther is the most influential 
• and significant man in the spiritual history of * 


mankind since Christ. Upon no other has so 
much devolved. Athanasius, standing against 
the world and maintaining that God was gen- 
uinely in one man, that one at least was not 
a machine, is not a figure so imposing. The 
failure of no other, since the time when Christ, 
hearing the howl of the mob that waited for 
his blood, answered the priest's " Art thou the 
Son of God.? " with firm "I am," and the satrap's 
"Art thou then a king.?" with calm, "Thou 
sayest," nor deigning, for the sake of life, to 
profane by explanation the truth which, to every 
uncorrupted soul, should have been plain and 
primary, — the failure of no other since that 
crisis and that triumph in Jerusalem had cost 
humanity so much as the failure, at any of the 
great crises of his life, of Martin Luther. 
"The people, on the morrow, as he went to 
the Hall of the Diet," says Carlyle, speaking 
of Luther's appearance at Worms, "crowded 
the windows and housetops, some of them call- 
ing out to him, in solemn words, not to recant. 
'Whosoever denieth me before men!' they 
cried to him, — as in a kind of solemn petition 
and adjuration. Was it not in reality our 
petition too, the petition of the whole world, 
lying in dark bondage of soul, paralyzed under 
a black spectral Nightmare and triple-hatted 


Chimera, calling itself Father in God, and what 
not : ' Free us ; it rests with thee ; desert us 
not ! ' " 

Mr. Froude has said that the appearance of 
Luther before the Diet of Worms is, perhaps, 
the very finest scene in human history. Car- 
lyle, at any rate, is safe in saying that it is | 
r' the greatest scene in Modern European His- ; 
tory." " It is," he says, " the greatest moment • 
in the Modern History of Men. English Puri- \ 
tanism, England and its Parliaments, Americas, ^ 
and yast work these two centuries; French 
Revolution, Europe and its work everywhere 
at present, — the germ of it all lay there ; had/' 
Luther in that moment done other, it had allj- 
been otherwise ! *' 

And, indeed, it were difficult to conjure up 
a spectacle more dramatic, a collision sharper, 
than that presented by this Diet of Worms. 
Never, perhaps, had there been a more impos- 
ing gathering of dignities for the purpose of 
overawing a simple man. And this in a day 
when dignities and authorities had a sanctity 
and a terror of which it is impossible for our 
time even to conceive. "Little monk," said 
George of Frundsberg, touching Luther on the 
shoulder as he passed through the ante-room 
into the Diet, "thou hast work before thee 


that I and many a man whose trade is war 
never faced the like of." The ashes of Huss 
and Jerome had floated down the river on 
whose banks the Diet met, for words far less 
defiant and acts far less flagrant than those 
which Luther came to answer for, and the 
bishops and archbishops in whose presence he 
now stood were all of the opinion that the 
stake was the only fitting place for so insolent 
a heretic. His friends had reminded him of 
Huss, and most of them viewed his entry into 
Worms as equivalent to commitment to the 
flames.* At the very city gates, he was urged 
back by- still more earnest warnings. "Were 
there as many devils in Worms as there are 
tiles on the roofs," he replied, "I would on.*' 
" Though they should kindle a fire as high as 
heaven between Wittenberg and Worms," he 
had said on the way, "yet would I go and 
appear in the name of the Lord." And there 
he stands in the dreadful presence. There is 

*"To a heretic,'* urged the Church authorities, "one is under no 
obligation, either to grant a safe^onduct or to keep it" But the emperor 
replied, *' Whatever promise has been made must be fulfilled." A year 
after the death of Luther, Charles stood at his grave, having entered Witten- 
berg as victor of the battle of Mlihlberg over the forces of the Protestant 
League of Smalcald. One of his companions endeavored to persuade him to 
take vengeance upon the dead heretic. " My work with Luther," answered 
Charles, " is done. I war with the living, not with the dead." How doubly 
mean, beside this noble rebuke, appears the spiteful dealing with the ashes 
of Widif by the Church I 



the emperor, hard and hostile, with his ret- 
inue of Spanish priests and lords, and the as- 
sembled princes of Germany, "before whom 
the poor peasantry had been taught to tremble 
as beings of another nature from themselves" ; 
and there "the legate of the dreaded power 
which had broken the spirit of princes and 
emperors " ; the bishops and archbishops, in 
their trappings; the dukes and barons, with 
their stern, unsympathetic faces. *' The world's 
\^pomp and power," says Carlyle, "sits there on 
; I this hand ; on that, stands up for God's Truth 
jjone man, the poor miner Hans Luther's son." 
Well, he did not fail us. The exultant shout 
of the crowd that received him as he came out 
of the hall was the witness to how he had kept 
the faith. One voice was heard above the rest : 
" Blessed be the mother that bore thee ! " Fire 
had no terrors to this man, — no lack of cour- 
age there. He lived continually in a presence 
far more august than that of emperor or pope. 
Gold and rubies, purple and fine-twined linen, 
coronets and mitres, — these had long lost their 
power to impose upon him. He knew well how 
they are put together, and he looked on every 
man as he is in his nakedness. The voice at 
Worms was the same as the voice at Witten- 
berg: "Prove to me that I am wrong, and I 



[submit. Till then, my conscience binds me. 
Here I stand. I cemnot do otherwise. So help 
me God I " 

This scene there in the Diet of Worms is a 
miniature and epitome of Luther's life. We 
find in scene after scene in those familiar dra- 
matic chapters of his life essentially the same 
elements and the same collision,— the collision 
of a mighty individual bound by conscience 
with the prestige and the forces of tradition 
and authority. Always the world's pomp and 
power stands there on this hand; on that, 
stands up for God's truth one man. So it is in 
that memorable act of the thirty-first day of 
October, isi7i that All Saints' Eve from which 
the Reformation dates. The scene in the Diet 
of Worms itself is scarcely more impressive 
than that scene at Wittenberg, — Luther alone 
at evening walking resolutely through the town, 
and with his own hand nailing his ninety- 
five theses against indulgences to the church 
door. "Please God," I think we hear him say 

I through his set teeth, as his hammer rings in 
the evening air, "please God, this shall beat 
a hole in Tetzel's drum." He knew next to 
nothing of the significance of his act. He 
^ simply nailed his theses to the door and went 
iiPto evening service, as he went in yesterday 


and yesterday. He never thought that per- 
chancF he was a hero . He would have been 
amazeXnSSr he been told that he was doing , 
the most memorable thing that had been done [ "^ 
'^ / for fift een centuries. He was amazed, when 
presently he learned of the publicity which 
his act had attained. He had simply thought, 
Here and now is a wrong and a lie, and here 
and now in Wittenberg I will crush it. And, 
lo! before another sun goes down, thousands 
of pilgrims, returning to their homes, are dis- 
persing the doctrine over Saxony; in a fort- 
night, the theses, translated into the common 
tongue, are flying through every part of Ger- 
many; and, before the month has passed, they 
are read at Rome. 

The story goes — it is a fond story among 
the Germans, and, mythical or not, is a good 
parable — that on that evening of All Saints, 
just after the theses were posted on the 
church door, Frederick the Elector lay at his 
castle of Scheinitz, six leagues distant ; and, as 
he was pondering how to keep the festival, he 
fell asleep, and dreamed that he saw the monk 
writing certain propositions on the chapel of 
the castle at Wittenberg, in so large a hand 
that it could be read at Scheinitz. The pen 
began to expand, as he looked, and gradually 


grew longer and longer, till at last it reached 
to Rome, touched the Pope's triple crown, and 
made it totter. He inquired of the monk 
where he had got such a pen, and was answered 
that it once belonged to the wing of a goose in 
Bohemia. Presently, other pens sprang out of 
the great pen, and all seemed busy writing. A 
loud noise was heard, and Frederick awoke. 
The hundred years had revolved, and Huss's 
saying had come true : " To-day, you burn a 
goose.* A hundred years hence, a swan shall 
arise, whom you will not be able to burn." 

The same collision which we see in the Diet 
of Worms we see also again in the Diet of 
Augsburg, whither Luther was summoned be- 
fore the papal legate, Cajetan, just a year 
after the publication of his theses, and three 
years before the greater diet. The Diet of 
Augsburg seems indeed a sort of dress rehearsal 
for the Diet of Worms, — the same accusation, 
the same defence, the same threatening, the 
same result. What Luther afterward wrote to 
his friend, Lucas Cranach, about his experience 
at Worms he might as well have written now 
of his experience at Augsburg: "I supposed 
they would have assembled some fifteen doctors 

*The meaning of the Bohemian name Husi. This saying explains the 
swan often seen engraved over German pictures of Luther. 



or so, and have overcome the monk by argu- 
ment ; but no, nothing of the sort. * Are the 
books yours?' 'Yes.' 'Will you revoke or 
not ? ' ' No.' ' Get you gone, then ! ' Oh, what 
children we are, to let the Roman apes befool 
us in this way I " * The papal legate found, to 
his amazement, that the criminal whom he had 
summoned to his bar was turning the tables, 
and forcing him to justify himself. Having 
begun by browbeating the monk, he evidently 
ended by being afraid of him. "I can dispute 
no longer with this beast," he said: "it has 
deep-set eyes and wonderful thoughts in its 
head." f His demand for retraction was met 
by the demand for evidence of error. His 
statement that the pope had sanctioned the 
indulgences was met by the assertion that the 
pope had no right to sanction them. Luther 
appealed "from the pope ill-informed to the 
pope to-be-better-informed " : " As to the re- 
traction which you require of me with such 

* " If the pope could bring against me only one such argument as the 
Jews had against Jeremiah and other prophets," said Luther, " it were not 
pos^ble for me to subsist. But the pope disputes with me not according to 
justice and equity, but with the sword and his power. He uses no written 
law, but dub law. If I had no other argument against the pope than ele 
/ado, I would instantly hang myself; but my dispute \&jus.** " I cry," he 
■aid, " Gospel i Gospel I and they answer. Usage I Usage i " 

t " Luther's eyes," wrote one who knew him, " were black and deep-set, 
lightening and sparkling like the stars, so that one could hardly look at them 
for any length of time." 


pertinacity, my conscience will not permit me 
to give it ; and there is nothing in the world, 
neither command nor counsel, nor the voice 
of friendship, nor of mere prudence, which 
could induce me to act against my con- ' 
science." "I will retract when you show me 
what I have said contrary to the gospel of 
Christ. Answer my arguments, and I will 
obey your commandment." 

This, we see, is precisely the same thing as 
the Diet of Worms. "Think you that the 
pope cares for the opinions of Germany } " cried 
Cajetan's messenger. "Think you that the 
princes will take up arms for you.^ And, if 
not, where will you be } *' " Under heaven," 
Luther answered ; and one midnight, heeding 
the warnings of his friends, and knowing well 
that it was useless to prolong this farce of a 
discussion, he escaped through a postern, and 
quietly rode off, beneath the stars, to Witten- 
berg. Already, Rome had issued preliminary 
notice of the bull of excommunication against 
him ; and that was equivalent to a price upon 
his head. 

Another picture of this one man, the miner's 
son, standing up for God's truth against the 
world's pomp and power ! It is the loth of 
December, 1520. The famous bull which sepa- 



rated Martin Luther from the communion of 
the faithful, and declared him a heretic, in- 
famous and accursed, has arrived in Witten- 
berg. Sixty days were given the reformer to 
burn all his books and retract, or come to Rome 
and confess his sins. Otherwise, he and all hisi 
friends were to be treated as heretics, according] 
to the ancient method. The ancient method, 
friends ! Oh, that ancient method ! You think, 
perhaps, that ancient method differed from the 
modern one somewhat as the ass's back dif- 
fers fro m the parlor car. Well, it was surely 
less elegant ; but it was more expeditious. 
The ancient method with heretics — and the 
modern method ! What is the modern 
method } What is the modern penalty for 
protestantism } What did you ever suffer, 
friend, for any opposition of yours to the pop- 
ular religion, or for any word or act of yours 
in behalf of any unpopular truth } Well, I 
suppose that you had to endure the disapproval 
and the frown of uncle's wife ; I suppose that 
Mrs. Grundy got out a little bull about you, — 
and I do not underestimate the virus and 
the poignancy, in instances, of social and 
family persecution, — I have said some' things 
on that point, in my life, and propose to say 
more; I suppose, too, that, if you are a 


public functionary of any sort, you have even 
stood in the pillory of the religious news- 
papers, so called, — truly a terrible ordeal. 
But the ancient method, my friend ! Ah, , I 
must say that I am sometimes inclined to 
think very poorly of my generation, when I- 
note the exceedingly small price for which 
men are willing to sell their manhood and 
compromise with what to them is no longer 
honest gospel, and when I hear the petty whines 
of men over the petty losses and annoyances 
they suffer for refusing to hiss some estab- 
lished shibboleth. O men and women, what 
would become of your gospel, if it, too, had to 
face its age of martyrdom, like other gospels, 
and it became a question of exile, .of torture, 
and the stake } Poor stuff for martyrs, these 
weak compromisers and complainers of ours ! 
Not of such stuff were thbse Puritans of Eng- 
land made, and our Pilgrim Fathers. Not of 
such stuff was Martin Luther. This man 
afraid of uncle's wife counting her beads in 
the Thuringer Wald, or of that other cosset- 
ing the parish priest in Franconia ! This 
man afraid of Wittenberg West End ! This 
man afraid of the editor of the Leipzig Rela- 
Hones Semestrales I Ah, my dear, tremulous 
friend, the exceeding great humor of it ! Just 


as little fear had he of the ancient method. 
Afraid of Dr. Eck and the pope of Rome ! 
Why, he had slept with the Devil himself 
under his bed and in the chimney for twenty 
years, and learned to look him out of counte- 
nance, — and this not the devil of our "New 
Orthodoxy," written with a small d or with 
no d at all, but the genuine Devil of your 
grandfather, as personal as the pope. Afraid 
of the stake ! Why, for twenty years, his soul 
had wrestled for its salvation with the powers 
of darkness, at the very mouth of hell. What 
were a moment in the flames of the inquis- 
itors to a man like this, forever in view of the 
unquenchable fire.^ A bull of excommunica- 
tion from the pope of Rome ! Well, it meant 
very much more, as you perceive, than a de- 
position by the Pittsburg Presbytery. No 
wonder that men in Germany didn't care to 
be caught with Luther's books on their premises, 
true as they might believe them to be, and 
began to burn them up. I suppose that men 
said to him now just as they had said when he 
first began to preach against the indulgences : 
" What are you about } They won't allow it." 
" What if they must allow it ? " he had answered 
then ; and now he said to the doctors and 
students of the University, " Come with me to 


the Elster gate." Already, while the bull was 
on its way, he had issued a pamphlet upon 
"The Babylonian Captivity of the Church," 
which was in the hands of all the people. " I 
hear," he said in this, "that the papal anathe- 
mas are ready to be hurled against me, to com- 
pel me to recant. If that be true, then I wish 
that this little book be considered a part of my 
future recantation ; and, in a little while, I will 
issue a recantation, by the help of Christ, the 
like of which the Roman court has hitherto not 
seen nor heard." In solemn march, he now led 
the procession without the city gate, followed 
by a vast crowd of the townspeople, to where 
a great pile of fagots had been raised in readi- 
ness. The fire was put to the pile, and Luther 
cast the papal bull into the flames ; and not the 
bull only, but the laws of the Church of Rome, 
the Decretals, the Clementines, the Extravagants, 
the accumulation of the ages, together with the 
writings of Eck and Emser, his great opponents 
in Germany. A clean sweep of it this time ! 
"As thou hast vexed the saints of God," he 
cried, as he cast in the bull, " so mayest thou 
be consumed in eternal fire ! " Excommunica- 
tion ! Well, if it must be, then let it be done 
in right order. If books are to be burned, let it 
not be books of God's Bible in the making, but 


books of untruth, pestiferous, cumbrous, decay- 
ing books. If it has become a question of 
offensive and defensive, then keep superstition 
forever in the wrong, degrade not truth by 
making it apologetic and a beggar, suffer not 
life and hope and prophecy to cringe for their 
credentials to bombast and corruption and old 
clothes. Ah, it is a melancholy thing to see 
men who are called to be prophets of the soul 
hiccoughing for dread of the orthodoxies of the 
city, and bothered about how they shall appear 
to the establishments. Bulls of orthodoxies ! 
Why, burn them up. Establishments ! Excom- 
municate them, till they show fruits meet for 
repentance, by virtue of the living sovereign truth 
that resides in you, if so be there is any sovereign 
truth in you, and you have reliably found it out. 
" Our dealing and proceeding against the pope," 
said Luther, "is altogether excommunication, 
which is simply the public declaration that a 
person is disobedient to Christ's Word. Now, 
we affirm in public that the pope and his 
retinue believe not : therefore, we conclude that 
he shall not be saved, but be damned. What 
is this but to excommunicate him } " In a word, 
belief in a lie, not belief in the truth, — this is 
what excommunicates a man from whatever in 
this world is worth having communion with or 



whatever any of us need have any concern about. 
No genuine man was ever hurt yet by any bull 
of any orthodoxy, and excommunication of an 
honest prophet only lifts him into the closer 
communion of the saints. *' From the year of 
our Lord 1520 to the present time," said Luther, 
cheerfully, late in life, " every Maundy Thurs- 
day, at Rome, I have been by the pope excom- 
municated and cast into hell. For every year, 
on Maundy Thursday, all heretics are excom- 
municated at Rome, among whom I am always 
put first and chief. Yet I still live." It was 
on the loth of December, 1520, that Luther 
excommunicated the pope, and publicly pro- 

I claimed in this modern world that in things of 
f J religion it is safe and chiefly advisable for a 

j man to stand on his own feet. Just a hundred 
years from that day, — as you who like to mark, 
as I do, the striking coincidences of history, 
will note with interest, — our Pilgrim Fathers 
were in Plymouth harbor, ready to land on the 
morrow morning to found this New World 



I think no man has ever lived whose life is 
more dramatic than the life of Luther, none 
who takes a stronger hold upon the imagina- 
tion, no more striking personality. From first 
to last, a continual succession of great and 
beautiful pictures, that transfix the painter and 
the poet. We see the poor boy, singing carols 
in the street for his bread, and kindly taken in 
by Frau Ursula Cotta; we see the student, 
thrilled by the old Latin Bible discovered in 
the university library at Erfurt; we see the 
monk, now tortured by self-condemnation and 
now enraptured by a saving faith ; we see the 
bachelor of arts, lecturing on philosophy at 
Wittenberg ; we see the pilgrim, wrathful and 
appalled at the mockeries and the worldliness 
of Rome ; we see the fearless and defiant 
Protestant, disputing with doctors and diets ; 
we see the hidden scholar of the Wartburg, 
translating the Bible into the language of the 
people ; we see the mighty preacher in the 
pulpit; we see the statesman, dealing with 
princes and with revolutions; we see the 
tender husband and father, loving his sweet 
German home, his human heart all broken as 
he kneels beside the coffin of his child ; we see 


the faithful friend, bright centre of that bright 
and faithful company of scholars ; we see the 
great man among men, loved of the people, 
one with the people, singing with them, speak- 
ing their speech, simple as they, eating and 
drinking, glad to see the springtime coming 
and to hear the birds, glad in all gladness and 
beauty, ministering to sickness and to every 
sorrow, — a heart responsive to every note in 
nature and in man, a big, impulsive, ovfer- 
flowing soul, humorous, hilarious, courageous, 
superstitious, scrupulous, reckless, a bigot, a 
poet, vulgar, charitable, a clap of thunder, 
a very mother in sympathy and providence, his 
foibles and his virtues all so human and so 
plain, — no wonder that the German people have 
taken this colossus into their hearts and set up 
his image everywhere, father of their Church, 
father of their literature, pillar of their learning 
and corner-stone of their schools, patron saint 
of their festivities, guardian of their liberties 
and idol of their homes.* 

* " Luther possessed qualities that we seldom see associated, — nay, that 
we usually find in the sharpest antagonism. He was at once a dreamy 
mystic and a practical man of action. His thoughts had not only wings, but 
also hands. He spoke and he acted : he was not only the tongue, but also 
the sword of his time. He was both a cold, scholastic word-sifter, and an 
inspired, God-drunk prophet. After a long day spent in laboriously working 
out dogmatic distinctions, at evening time he would take his flute and go out 
to gase at the stars, and his soul would dissolve in melody and devotion. 
This same man, who could scold like a fish-wife, could also be as gentle as a 


How the very spirit of the nation seems to 
be behind the hand of the German artist, who, 
like Gustav Konig in his way, outlines for us 
the moving panorama of this life ! Few books 
have power to bring us so close to the man 
Luther as such pictures. There is no ade- 
quate book, it seems to me, upon the life of 
Luther, — no book like Carlyle*s upon the life 
of Frederick. The life by Kostlin is a mon- 
ument of learning, industry, faithfulness and 
justice, — a book to be profoundly grateful for, 
but not an inspired book, not prophetic. 
There is no English life of Luther which is 
even respectable. It is singular that English- 
sensitive maiden. He was often as fierce as the storm that uproots the oak- 
tree, and then agam he was as mild as the breeze that caresses the violet. 
He was full of the awful reverence of God, full of self-sacrificing devotion 
to the Holy Spirit, he could lose himself entirely in pure spirituality. And 
yet he was fully acquainted with the glories of this earth; he knew how 
estimable they are : it was his lips that uttered the famous maxim, — 

' IVer liebi nickt IVeirtt Weib^ und Gesang^ 
Der bleibt ein Narr sein Leben lang,* 

He was a complete man, I might say an absolute man, in whom there was 
no discord between matter and spirit. To call him a spiritualist, therefore, 
would be as erroneous as to call him a sensualist. How shall I describe 
him ? He had in him somethmg primordial, incomprehensible, miraculous, 
such as we find in all providential men ; something naively terrible, some- 
thing boorishly wise, something lofty yet circumscribed, something invincible 
and inspired." — Heine. 

One notable way in which Luther's large compass and wealth of 
nature appear is his love of beauty and of art, and his dear appreciation of 
their functions, at a time when most of the reformers maintained here an 
attitude of indifiEerence or of pronounced hostility. " I am not of the opin- 
ion," he said, '*that all the arts should be suppressed by the gospel, and 


men, who write the best biographies, who have 
even given Germany great lives of Lessing, of 
Goethe, and of Stein, have never turned to 
this most magnetic, profound, and picturesque 
of lives. Yet, perhaps, there has been but one 
man among us, who was fully fitted, by nature 
and by culture, for so great a work. More and 
more, I think, we shall have reason to deplore 
that Carlyle did not give to Luther half of 
those fifteen weary years which he bestowed 
upon the Frederick, which had been twice as 
good, if but half as long. Surely, the most 
pregnant and valuable words which have yet 
been written upon Luther are those few pages 
in Heroes and Hero- Worship. 

should perish, as several high ecclesiastics maintain; but I would rather 
that all the arts, especially music, should be enlisted in the service of Him 
who has created fhem amd bestowed them upon us.'* He was himself 
warmly devoted to music, even wrote a treatise on the art ; and the chorals 
which he composed are still commonly sung in Germany. Hitndel confessed 
that he derived advantage from studying his scores. He prepared a hymn- 
book for the use of the Protestant congregations, and he was as truly the 
father of Protestant church song as of Protestant doctrine. His own poems, 
" the hymns that budded forth in his soul amidst the conflicts and troubles of 
his days, oftentimes resemble," says Heine, "a flower blooming on a bare 
rock ; oftentimes, they are like a moonbeam shimmering across a tossing sea. 
A true war-song was that defiant lay * Eine/tst* ^mt^,' — the Marseillaise 
Hymn of the Reformation." 




We are celebrating at this time the four hun- 
dredth birthday of Martin Luther. In ten 
thousand places, men have gathered in these 
days to join in that sacramental service. I do 
not know that birthdays are the worthiest and 
most didactic days to celebrate, in connection 
with the life of any man. There is nothing 
more accidental and characterless in the life 
of any of us than birth and death. Birth- 
days commemorate the fate side of a man. 
Much more inspiring is it to commemorate 
the side of freedom and of personality. Much / 
\ more than any birthday, if you will see it, is j 
\the anniversary of some heroic choice of yours, ^ 
of some revolutionary vision, of some gracious 
touching of God's finger, which created a new 
soul within you and a new heaven and a new 
earth about you. It was on such a day, you 
feel, that the soXil of you first got fairly born 
at all ; and from such days that what is honor- 
able, significant and distinctive in you really 
dates. The birthdays of the soul, the anniver- 
saries of great and public deeds, — these are 
the fittest festivals. To the Brown family, it 
is important, doubtless, that one John Brown 
was born May 9, 1800, at Torrington, Con- 



.necticut. To us and to himself ^ John Brown 
1 1 was born when twelve years old, when he saw 
a negro boy, fully his equal, beaten with iron 
shovels, — and was by this first led to reflect 
upon the hopeless wretchedness of slaves, and 
to raise the question, "Is God their Father?" 
The real Newton was born, not under Charles, 
but under Cromwell. And it is not so im- 
portant to determine whether Columbus made 
a slip in writing himself down forty-eight in 
1503, since, for the world, Columbus was born 
when, at Porto Santo, the idea burst in upon 
him that he could and would sail due west on 
the round earth and come to land. The real 
Luther, too, was born, not just four hundred 
years ago, but on the 17th of July, 1505, 
when, rising from the company of convivial 
and rollicking students in some AuerbacKs 

\ Keller, at Erfurt, he knocks at midnight at 

\ the door of the old Augustinian convent. 

I "Open, in God's name," said he. "What do 
you want.?*' replied the porter. "To conse- 
crate myself to God." "Amen!" answered 
the brother ; and he passed beneath the portal. 
That were a day worthy to commemorate, — 
a great birthday of the soul. The day com- 
memorated by the German people, year by 
year, is not Luther's birthday, but that Octo- 



( ber 31, that All Saints' Eve, when he nailed 



his ninety-five theses to the cBufch" Sdor. 
That is Reformation Day, and the great Luther 
day in Germany. And this is well, for the 
Reiformation and the public significance of the 
man Luther really date from that memorable 
act. Be that day forever kept sacred ! When 
the New Faith comes to clear self-conscious- 
ness, and can heartily and sincerely institute, 
that day shall be a bright one in its calendar, 
rich in its perennial possibilities of inspiration 
and of education from the great life which we 
celebrate to-day. Yet would I certainly not 
criticise that impulse by which men everywhere 
are celebrating now this four hundredth birth- 
day. Much rather do we all rejoice in it, and 
in every occasion which may draw us closer to 
Luther for a moment, and serve to direct men's 
studies afresh to his character and services. 
And, laying stress on that divine Necessity, 
upon which Luther himself laid greater stress 
than upon any fact of Freedom, we consider 
that at this time, four hundred years ago, God 
set the child Luther in this world, to train for 
his predestined work. At Eisleben in Saxony, 
among the foothills of the Harz Mountains, 
he was born ; and, at the end, he came back 
there, from Wittenberg, to die. The tradition 


is that his parents had gone to Eisleben to 
attend a fair, when their son was unexpectedly 
born on the eve of St. Martin. Yet good 
antiquarians contend that he was not born 
here at all — but at Mansfeld, rather. It is 
the story of Nazareth and Bethlehem again. 


Four hundred years ago ! What did the sun 
of that November, 1483, which looked down 
into the cradle of Martin Luther, see else, as 
it coursed over the world, from Cathay to the 
Azores.? From Cathay, — for Marco Polo had 
found it and brought back the news, two centu- 
ries before, and Christian missionaries were 
already in Pekin ; to the Azores, — for they had 
found their way into the map a hundred years 
before. These were the limits of the vision of 
the boy Luther's sun, in its daily journey ; for 
the sun of Moses and of Homer still made its 
daily journey, and should keep up the custom 
yet for sixty years. Copernicus was ten years 
old in 1483, learning his Greek and Latin in 
the old Polish city just beyond the German 
border. Luther outlived him long enough to 
read his book, and pronounce it damnable 
heresy. I do not doubt that Canon Copernicus, 



beloved of the bishops, himself candidate for 
the mitre, noting the successive emanations 
from Wittenberg and Worms, had been recip- 
rocally complimentary. America, in 1483, did 
not yet exist ; but strange premonitions of it 
are just beginning to trouble Columbus there 
in Spain. Ferdinand and Isabella are chiefly 
busy now in driving out the Moors and getting 
the Inquisition well established. Torquemada 
became the first inquisitor-general of Spain in 
this very year, 1483, — and the general auto- 
da-fd which at once ensued betokened how rife 
heresy had already become. 

In Italy^ in .H^i Savonarola enters .the-x;©n- il 
vent of S an M arco, and is about to begin his \\ M 
work of reformation. The news of his burn- 1 
ing, dread augury of the result of conflict with 
the pope, came into Germany while Martin 
Luther was living happily with Frau Ursula 
Cotta, at Eisenach. Italy, in 1483, was the ' 
most interesting_quarter of the worldji the seat ' 
of the most elegant culture and of the most 
varied thought. It was the centre now of the 
great humanistic movement, of which Reuchlin 
and Erasmus were the brilliant northern rep- 
resentatives in Luther's time. Reuchlin, in 
1483, had just returned to Germany from 
his studies in Italy with Ficinus and Miran- 

34 ^^R ^^^ ^ UTHER 

dola. This was the era of the great Italian 
free cities — Genoa, Pisa, Venice, Florence. 
Lorenzo de' Medici was the head of Florence, 
and the golden age of Italian art was just 
beginning. Leonar do da Vinci was thirty years 
old. Michael Angelo was a schoolboy. Ra- 
phaeLwas born in this same year, 1483, that 
Luther was born, as also, if one wishes to 
remember it, was Rabelais in France. When 
Luther made his pilgrimage to Rome, in 1510, 
if he made his way into the Vatican, as well 
he may have done, he found Raphael there, 
painting perhaps his " School of Athens " or his 
" Reconciliation of Philosophy with Theology," 
and Michael Angelo immersed in his great 
frescos in the Sistine Chapel. He certainly 
saw the walls of St. Peter's Church rising, 
under Julius II. A long way from Paul, the 
tent-maker, to Julius of St. Peter's and the 
Vatican, I suppose he said, in his simplicity, — 
as far as " from virtue to virtitf' he might have 
added, had he learned the phrase. It was for 
money to forward the building of St. Peter's 
that Leo sent his pardon peddlers into Ger- 
many. It is interesting to remember the func- 
tion of St. Peter's in precipitating Luther's 
revolt and the Reformation. " The cost of St. 
Peter's," observes Heine, "was to be defrayed 



by this very sale of indulgences, vice being 
thus made contributory to the erection of the 
edifice, which thereby became a kind of monu- 
ment of sensual desire, like the pyramid of 
Rhodope, constructed by an Egyptian courte- 
san from the profits of prostitution. Of this 
house of God, it may with more justice be 
asserted, than of the cathedral of Cologne, that 
it was built by the devil." 

^11^483, Sixtus IV. was pope, trying to 
rouse Europe against the Turks. Sultan Mo- 
hammed had captured Constantinople and over- 
thrown the Eastern Empire just thirty years 
before the birth of Luther; and, all through 
Luther's life, the Turks were pressing into 
Central Europe, sometimes almost to the walls 
of Vienna, threatening to put an end to West- 
ern civilization altogether. If there is one 
word which sums up all that was appalling to 
the European world into which Luther was 
born, that word is Turk, The unspeakable 
Turk played a part in the general theology 
itself second only to Satan, just as to the Prot- 
estants, in the impending conflict, he was out- 
ranked in horror only by Satan and the pope. 
The Dutch " sea-beggars," who swept down to 
raise the siege of Leyden, wore crescents in 
their hats, with the inscription, " Rather Turk- 



ish than Popish." When Luther first read the 
sentences in the Apocalypse about Antichrist, 
the Man of Sin, the great Whore of Babylon, 
and the rest, " I did not look toward Rome," 
he says, ** but thought they had been spoken 
of the Jews or Turks." Afterward, he said, 
''Antichrist is the pope and the Turk to- 
gether." And yet the bloody Turk did Luther 
and the Reformation a good turn. Were it not 
that the whole energy of the empire was needed 
to withstand the Turk, Luther and the Prot- 
estant princes would certainly not have been 
allowed to go on with as little bother as they 
really encountered. 

Sixtus IV. was succeeded in the papacy by 
Innocent VIII., father of seven illegitimate chil- 
dren, all by different women. His apologists 
claim that there were only two children. Per- 
haps this is why the Church named him Inno- 
cent. His original name was John Baptist. 
He was succeeded by Pope Borgia, that Tibe- 
rius among the popes, — of whom there will 
be something more to say; and he by Pope 
Piccolomini, called Pius, the twenty-one days* 
pope ; followed, before Luther nailed his theses 
to the church door, by Julius and Leo, chief 
priests of virtii^ — the gospel " By taste are ye 
saved," a gospel which always has place some- 



where, sooner or later, for bills of indulgence 
and Tetzels. 

In Old England, what did the sun see in^ 
148^^ In that year 1483, the two princes 
were murdered in the Tower, and Richard^ 
III. became King of England. English free- \ 
dom was at its lowest ebb. Wiclif had been } 
dead just one hundred years. But John Colet * 
entered Oxford University this year; Thomas % 
More was three years old; and Caxton had • 
just set jip his printing-press at Westmin- 
ster, was printing the Canterbury Tales and . 
the old chronicles, — crook-backed Richard him- 
self one of his patrons. It was now thirty years 
since Gutenberg, on the Rhine, had first " made 
thought cosmopolite." The Appeal against the 
TurkSy of 1454, and the Letters of Indulgence^ 
of 1454 and 14SS, were the first works, bar- 
ring a little Latin grammar, which came from 
his press. The new thought with which the 
world was throbbing compelled the printing- 
press to appear. It was the great engine of 
the Reformation, the timeliest and most provi- 1 
dential, if we may say so, of all inventions. It I 
meant freedom and enlightenment. Heine re- 
marks, speaking of Luther throwing his ink- 
stand at the devil, in the Wartburg, " The devil 
has ever since that day had a great dread of 




fink, and above all of printing-ink." The Church 
opposed the printing-press, just as it opposed 
Copernicus and Luther. The book is a heretic, 
the sincere sun is a heretic. I suppose that 
this Columbian New World, when found, was 
seen to be a heretic too, and duly anathema- 
tized. And the Church's instinct was correct. 

yThe alphabet was a foreordained and predes- 
tmated heretic ; and everything has been a 
heretic which, in any momentous way, since 
time .began, has advanced knowledge, shed 
light, or enlarged the borders. " Not to agree 
with them is heresy," said Erasmus of the 
priests with whom he had to do. "To know 
Greek is heresy. To speak good Latin is 
heresy. Whatever they do not understand is 

I heresy.'* 

The printing-press, the new heavens, the 
new religion, — Gutenberg, Copernicus, Luther, 
— surely, Germany, which, in a single century, 
gave these to the world, may be pardoned for 
the two centuries of intellectual barrenness 
which followed them. I should say that the 
appearance of printed books was the most im- 
portant phenomenon in Germany at the time 
when Luther was born into it. In Nuremberg, 
Albrecht Diirer, the Raphael of Protestantism, 
was twelve years old; and Hans Sachs, who 



became Luther's disciple about the time of 
the Diet of Worms, and who devoted one of his 
finest songs to the "Nightingale of Witten- 
berg," — Hans Sachs was about to be born. 
Albrecht Diirer and Hans Sachs we account 
important phenomena. Kaiser Frederick, the 
Pacific, was not an important phenomenon. 
Kaiser Max, who presently succeeded him and 
reigned till after Luther's hammer rung on 
the church door, was considerably more im- 

These, then, were some of the things be- 
held by the sun of 1483, which shone upon 
Martin Luther's cradle. Only do not think 
that I have meant herein to paint a picture 
of the Europe of four hundred years ago. I 
have but catalogued some brilliant names and 
some famous and dramatic contemporary doings, 
to make us realize more vividly when it was 
that this man, Martin Luther, was born into 
the world, and to indicate some of the hopeful 
and prophetic factors of the time. But the 
Europe of four hundred years ago, — wHo, in 
brief, shall paint that picture.^ One part of 
humanists, painters, academies, printing-presses, 
and Portuguese navigators ; nine parts of feu- 
dalism, of tyranny, of slavery, of hopeless pov- 
erty and beggary, of superstition unutterable, 


and of all that we count degradation. Oh, the 
nine parts of darkness ! 


(The greatest factor of that time, by far, was 
the Church. The Church was omnipresent, om- 
niscient, omnipotent. The priest was far more 
present to the people, and more potent, than the 
State ; the pope, a figure far more august and 
dreadful than the emperor. There was nothing 
in the life of 1483 in which the Church did not 
have a finger, where it was not, indeed, the 
thumb, — nothing from cradle to coronation, 
or, crossing the border, from heaven to hell. 
"Amidst all the attacks it sustained," says 
Ranke, "and all the conquests it achieved, — 
amidst those incessant conflicts, the decisions 
of which constantly assumed the character of 
laws, it not only asserted its claim to universal 
fitness for all ages and nations, for this world 
and the next, but to the regulation of the mi- 
nutest particulars of human life." 

I suppose that Luther's great work was 
this : — he killed the pope. That is what men 
and women know him for. Ask them what 
Luther was, and they shall tell you, The leader 
of Protestantism ; and Protestantism is protes- 
tantism against popery and the Church of Rome. 



I say that Luther killed the pope ; for a thing 
is dead in this world, whenever it is once shown 
that it has no reason for itself. That is a very 
true and great word of Hegel's, The real is the 
rational, and the rational is the real. The first 
principle of the Universe is Truth. No sham is 
a reality in this world, sham it ever so bravely, 
but only that which is genuinely rooted in the 
primal Reason. If your eye alone sees a truth, 
and if your logic be good, the whole world shall 
be compelled to see as you do, storm and stiffen 
as the whole world may. If a sham is once ' 
stabbed by an idea, the wound is mortal, long • 
as the carcass may parade the earth in its os- 
tentatious dying. We need none of us fear 
that there will ever be a healthy pope again, 
much as we need to guard the State against 
the bane of papal spasms. "The cry of *No 
Popery,'" says Carlyle, "is foolish enough in 
these days. The speculation that Popery is on 
the increase, building new chapels and so forth, 
may pass for one of the idlest ever started. 
Very curious : to count up a few Popish chapels, 
listen to a few Protestant logic-choppings, — to 
much dull-droning, drowsy inanity, that still 
calls itself Protestant, and say : See, Protestant- 
ism is dead; Popism is more alive than it, will be 
alive after it ! Drowsy inanities, not a few, that 



call themselves Protestant, are dead ; but Prot- 
estantism has not died yet, that I hear of ! Prot- 
estantism, if we will look, has in these days 
produced its Goethe, its Napoleon ; German Lit- 
erature, and the French Revolution, — rather 
considerable signs of life ! Nay, at bottom, 
what else is alive but Protestantism ? Popery 
can build new chapels ; welcome to do so to all 
lengths. Popery cannot come back, any more 
than Paganism can, — which also lingers in some 
countries. The poor old Popehood will not die 
away entirely, as Thor has done, for some time 
yet ; nor ought it. The Old never dies till this 
happen, till all the soul of good that was in 
it have got itself transfused into the practical 
New. While a good work remains capable of 
being done by the Romish form, or, what is 
inclusive of all, while a pious life remains capa- 
ble of being led by it, just so long, if we con- 
sider, will this or the other human soul adopt 
it, go about as a living witness of it. It lasts 
here for a purpose. Let it last as long as it 


But the Papacy and the Holy Catholic 
Church, as we know them, in their old age, 
held sharply to the bull-ring by Protestantism 
and Rationalism, kept on their good behavior 
by a vigilant public opinion, manifest a very 



different spirit from that with which they 
lorded it over God's heritage in the days of 
Innocent and Alexander. I do not mean to 
admit that the Holy Roman Church has got 
a regenerate or essentially different nature in 
these latter days. To my mind, Roman Church 
is Roman Church ; and its very genius is op- 
posed to everything that makes for freedom, 
enlightenment and self-respect in the modern 
world, to whatever most of us count progress. 
I do not speak of individuals, F6nelons and 
Lenormants, or Catholic saints and scholars 
humbler, but nearer and dearer to us Ameri- 
cans ; as learned scholars and as saintly saints 
have grown in soil much less promising. I do 
not underrate any philanthropies, I speak of 
the genius of the Roman Church ; and I say it 
is opposed to what is most hopeful and enno- 
bling in modern thought, opposed especially to 
those foundation principles of freedom and of 
science upon which our American State is built, 
and that it is only by eternal vigilance that it 
is to be kept from becoming seriously baneful 
and disastrous to the Commonwealth. Op- 
posed to freedom — as truly, at heart, in poli- 
tics as in religion. The audacity of the plea 
for the Roman Church as the friend and nurse 
of freedom and republics, which we have lately 



heard, is almost as astounding as its irony 
is mirthful. "Since when did the Roman 
Church become the mirror of republicanism ? " 
asked the orator, yesterday, as he swept 
through the slaughter fields of its history in 
England, Germany, France, Spain and the 
Netherlands. Had the Roman Church had its 
way there would to-day be no United States, 
i no united Germany, no French Republic, no 
) New Italy, no House of Commons, no Castelar 
in Spain. Opposed to science — jealous even 
of having her children taught that two and 
two are four without some postscript, of hav- 
ing them learn the simple lessons of history 
and of optics, and of hearing the plain, un- 
adorned words of Moses, Isaiah, Jesus Christ 
and Paul.* Her instinct tells her that knowl- 
edge is against her ; and hence this opposition 
to the schools, this resolution that nothing 
shall be studied in white light, but all things 
within stained windows. Hence imported Mon- 
signors, doughty in dinner-table sieges of dukes 
and dowagers, threatening us from Palace 
Brunswicks, — as if, in all conscience, we had 

* To banish the Bible from our schools, in obedience to the behests of 
prejudice and ignorance, would be folly and levity. We need more moral 
and religious words in our schools, rather than fewer, — in addition to wisely 
chosen passages from the Bible the wise words also of Plato, Marcoti Mil- 
ton, Seller and Emerson, 


not enough Madeira-wine Bourbonism of our 
own to bother us, — that by the mere utterance 
of a word, sharp as the click of a trigger. Holy 
Church can shake our schools from top to 
bottom, and land us in a fight ! Ah, Rever- 
end Monsignor, how poorly you understand the 
nature of the people among whom you are 
dining ; and how cheaply you make yourself 
ridiculous! This people made up its mind 
very long ago that there should be knowledge 
in this land, and that it would keep the guar- 
antee of it effectually in its own hands ; and, 
while it gives every church freedom to preach 
and pray and proselyte and propagate to the 
top of its bent, and to superinduce as much 
schooling as it will, it repels at the very thresh- 
old the attempt of any church to undermine 
the national education and meddle with its 
public schools. I do not gladly speak any 
word that may fan the flames of sectarian war- 
fare, and I certainly do not share the feelings 
of those men who seem to be in a chronic state 
of alarm about the Roman Church; but I do 
feel that we should not worthily celebrate this 
day, if we neglected, in the plain language of 
our own time and with reference to the actual 
circumstances of our own State, firmly to speak 
^he word of warning against the spirit with 


which it was Luther's chief work, his whole 
life long, to wage inveterate war.* 

Meantime, we heartily rejoice, and all good 
Catholics will rejoice with us, that, whether 
by reason of good Protestant censorship or 
by self-instituted drainage, the Holy Roman 
Church is not the noxious thing which it was 
when Monk Luther, wrestling with the Devil 
for his soul in Erfurt convent, was finding out 
that a monk "could not get to heaven by 
monkery," — that he, at any rate, could not do 
it. For, at the beginning of the fifteenth cen- 
tury, this infallible, indefectible Church was 
rotten from the crown of its head to the sole 
of its foot. The crown of its head, when that 
century began, was Pope Alexander VI., Rod- 
eric Borgia. One of the jewels in this crown 
was the Spanish mistress, Rosa Vant)zza, whom 
Roderic brought from Valencia to Rome, and 
lodged in a house near St. Peter's. She was 
the mother of five of his children, — those 
bright jewels C^sar and Lucretia among them, 
— and during Roderic's own lifetime was mar- 
ried to some petty official about the court, — 

* Almost Luther's last treatise was that "Against the Papacy," written 
the year before his death, and in the same spirit as that of his writings at 
the beginning of the Reformation. And, on one of those dosing days at 
Eisleben, he exdaimed, " Living was I thy plague, and dying will I be thy 
death, O pope I " 



married twice, indeed, I believe. Roderic had 
been made vice-chancellor, with twelve thou- 
sand crowns a year, by his uncle, Pope Calixtus 
III., — an audacious bit of Spanish nepotism, 
which earned for Roderic the everlasting grudge 
of the Italian first families. But he cared very 
little about their grudges, — as little as he did 
about the scorching public reprimand addressed 
him by Pope Pius II. for his too public indulgence 
of his taste for female society in Siena. He was 
cardinal now, — well up on the ladder of indefecti- 
bility. He had been very influential in getting 
Pius made pope ; and Pius had proved his grati- 
tude, even if decency did compel the reprimand. 
He was influential, too, in getting Sixtus IV. 
made pope ; and, for this, he received the rich 
abbey of Subiaco. Meantime, he was busy buy- 
ing up votes against his own time ; and, when 
Innocent VIII. died, in 1492, he had secured a 
sufficient number to create him pope. Five car- 
dinals alone are recorded as incorruptible. The 
simoniacal character of the election is indisput- 
able. Cardinal Sforza was made vice-chancellor 
of the Church ; Cardinal Orsino was bought 
with Borgia's palace in Rome ; Cardinal Col- 
onna with the abbey of Subiaco ; the Cardinal 
of St. Angelo with the bishopric of Porto and 
a cellar full of wine; the Cardinal of Parma 

48 ^^^ TIN L UTHER 

received the city of Nepi ; a monk of Venice, 
who had obtained the cardinalate, sold his vote 
for five thousand ducats, — and so on. These 
statements rest upon the manifestly candid 
record of Burcardus, Borgia's master of cere- 
monies ; and they have never been impeached. 
Surely, not a promising beginning for an in- 
defectible papal career. Of the crimes alleged 
against the saint while in office, and against 
his children, Caesar and Lucretia, it is impos- 
sible to say anything here ; and the matters are 
too notorious to need discussion. Of Caesar, 
— Cardinal Caesar, made cardinal at eighteen, 
who once despatched six bulls successively in 
the amphitheatre (for the old amenities of the 
empire were now restored at Rome), and once 
pursued his father's favorite secretary to his 
arms, and- there butchered him, — of Caesar, 
Pope Borgia said, " The duke is really a good 
fellow : it is only a pity that he cannot endure 
to be ofEended." It is not too much to say 
that the pontificate of Alexander " rivalled the 
worst periods of the Roman Empire in de- 
bauchery, venality, and murder." The pope 
'* made everything subordinate to the purpose 
of raising his bastard children above the heads 
of the oldest princely houses of Italy." Spirit- 
ual offices and privileges of every kind were sold 



with an unblushing effrontery which eclipsed 
the auctions of the Praetorian Guards, and the 
estates of mysteriously murdered cardinals were 
successively pounced upon by the emissaries 
of the Vatican. Yet the Church looked on 
and laughed. When Luther was at Rome, he 
heard priests and monks telling as good jokes 
the scandalous stories of the Borgias. Every 
one knows the story of Pope Borgia's tragical 
end, — the story of the supper given to the ten 
cardinals in the villa, and the fatal exchange 
of the poisoned flask. The tale is probably 
a myth, but a myth almost always has very 
deep foundations. Pope Borgia died, duly 
provided with all the needful sacraments of 
the Church ; and his swollen body, wrapped 
in an old carpet, was forced, with blows and 
jeers, amid the brawls of priests and soldiers, 
into a narrow coffin, and flung into an obscure 
vault. Then, the holy cardinals have another 
holy conclave, and the infallible Roman 
Church proceeds to crown itself anew. 

This Pope Borgia was the crown of the head 
of Holy Church all through Martin Luther's 
youth. This man was "the undisputed be- 
stower of kingdoms and the ultimate tribunal 
of appeal for Christian nations." To this man, 
Spain and Portugal had to resort for the adjust- 



ment of their claims to the New World, discov- 
ered during his pontificate; and, "by tracing a 
line upon a map, he disposed of three-fourths of 
the human race." Never did a pope exert his 
prerogative with greater grandeur than this 
monstrous sinner ; yet no one knew so well as 
he what a sham the papacy had already become, 
and how weak it really was. "The pope," said 
Luther, late in life, "is not God's image, but 
his ape. . . . Oh, such histories ought diligently 
to be^ written, to the end posterity may know 
upon what grounds popedom was erected and 
founded : namely, upon grounds oi lies and 
fables. If I were younger, I would write a 
chronicle of the popes." Again, " I would fain 
the papist confutation might appear to the 
world ; for I would set upon that old torn and 
tattered skin, and so baste it that the stitches 
thereof should fly about. But they shun the 

This Pope Borgia, I have said, was the crown 
of the head. I do not propose to ask you to 
follow me down to the sole of the foot. Eu- 
rope was overrun with clerical vermin, and 
groaned with the weight of convents. The 
churches were asylums for criminals, the mon- 
asteries the resort of dissolute youth. "In 
the cloister," said Luther, "rule the seven 



deadly sins, — covetousness, lasciviousness, un- 
cleanliness, hate, envy, idleness, and the loath- 
ing of the service of God.'* Priests made use 
of their exemption from tolls to open taverns 
to sell beer, and defended themselves against 
assault with excommunication and interdict. 
Whole villages disappeared and districts be- 
came waste, through the incessant augmenta- 
tion of ecclesiastical property. The inordinate 
number of holidays paralyzed industry. Ordi- 
nation was granted in the most reckless man- 
ner, and the constitution of the clergy was an 
offence to public morals. A multitude of 
ceremonies and rules were attributed to the 
mere desire to make money. The situation of 
priests living in a state of concubinage and 
burthened with illegitimate children, often 
tormented in conscience, afraid that in perform- 
ing the sacrifice of the mass they committed a 
deadly sin, excited mingled pity and contempt. 
Most of those who embraced the monastic pro- 
fession had no other idea than that of leading 
a life of self-indulgence without labor. The 
people saw that the clergy took from every 
class and station only what was agreeable, and 
avoided what was laborious or painful. " If a 
man wishes to enjoy himself for once,'* said an 
old proverb, "let him kill a fat fowl; if for a 



year, let him take a wife ; but, if he would live 
joyously all the days of his life, let him turn 
priest." This corruption is reflected in all the 
literature of the time, which was all satirical. 
The common characteristic of such works as 
the Eulenspiegel and Reineke Fuchs^ full of 
things which a modern audience would hardly 
bear, is hostility to the Church of Rome. We 
find it keen and relentless in the satires of 
Ulrich von Hutten. "Three things are ban- 
ished from Rome," says Hutten, — " simplicity, 
temperance, and piety ; three things are desired 
at Rome, — short masses, ol(J gold, and a merry 
life; three things uphold Rome, — the authority 
of the pope, the bones of the saints, and the 
pardon shop; three things they don't like to 
hear of, — a general council, the reformation of 
the clergy, and that the Germans are getting 
wiser." Again, he says, "You may live from 
plunder, commit murder and sacrilege, break 
the laws as you will ; your talk may be shame- 
ful, your actions criminal ; you may revel in 
lust, and deny God in heaven, — but, if you do 
but bring money to Rome, you are a most 
respectable person." * 

*This general corruption of the Church was oflBcially recognhed by 
Pope Adrian VI. , son of a Utrecht boat-maker, and crowned in 1522, the 
year after the Diet of Worms. This Dutch Pope Adrian could speak some 
honest truth, even in that much lying time. At the Diet of NurembeiXi 



"The authority of the pope, the bones of 
the saints, and the pardon shop," — the indul- 
gence, superstition, papal infallibility, — that is 
just the triple-headed monster with which 
Luther had to deal. The superstition of the 
time is something incredible. This it was 
which made the drained and down-trodden 
people bear with priests and monks as they 
did, — the feeling that, somehow or other, they 
bore a charmed life. Miracles were worked 
without ceasing, at the tomb of Bishop Benno 
and elsewhere. Every church, and almost 
every cross-road, had its awe-inspiring relics. 
"They once showed roe here, at Wittenberg," 
said Luther, "the drawers of St. Joseph and 
the breeches of St. Francis. The Archbishop 
of Mainz boasted he had a gleam of the flame 
of Moses' bush." This Archbishop of Mainz 
set up a perfect museum of relics at Halle — 
nine thousand — by way of raising some money. 
He had a portion of the body of Isaac, jugs of 
wine from the marriage-feast at Cana, and a 

summoned to put down Luther, he declared roundly, through his legate, 
that "these disorders had sprung from the sins of men, more especially 

from the sins tf ^iest* and prelates* Even in the holy chair," said he, 
"many horrible crimes have been committed. . . . The contagious disease, 
spreading from the head to the members, from the pope to lesser prelates, 
has spread far and wide, so that scarcely any one is to be found who does 
right and who is free from infection." A pope who could say such things 
as that naturally found it rather uncomfortable living in Rome, amd Adrian 

4ied after juat twenty months of popedom. 



most complete assortment altogether. He was 
also doing a brisk business in indulgences, when 
Luther wrote him, granting him two weeks' 
time to bring his business to a close, else he 
would issue his book Against the Idol in Halle, 
a copy of which he enclosed for his perusal. 
This had the desired effect. "At Compostella," 
said Luther, " they exhibit the standard of the 
victory that Jesus Christ gained over death and 
the devil." They showed him at Rome the 
halter wherewith Judas hanged himself; and, 
in his Table-Talk, he tells this story, with the 
same laughter, I am sure, with which we read 
it : "A German, making his confession to a 
priest at Rome, promised, on oath, to keep 
secret whatsoever the priest should impart unto 
him until he reached home. Whereupon, the 
priest gave him a leg of the ass on which Christ 
rode into Jerusalem, very neatly bound up in 
silk, and said, * This is the holy relic on which 
the Lord Christ corporally did sit, with his 
sacred legs touching this ass* leg.' Then was 
the German wondrous glad, and carried the 
said holy relic with him into Germany. When 
he got to the borders, he bragged of his holy 
relic in the presence of four others, his com- 
rades, when, lo ! it turned out that each of them 
had likewise received from the same priest a 



leg, after promising the same secrecy. Where- 
upon, all exclaimed with great wonder, * Lord ! 
had that ass five legs?'" 

We laugh at these things, Luther laughed at 
them ; but it was a very serious business with 
those poor German peasants. The breeches 
of St. Francis were a mighty lieutenant for the 
Holy Catholic Church in every village where 
they tabernacled, — and I do not doubt that 
Holy Church inherited a hundred pairs of 
breeches from St. Francis, — exercising a mys- 
terious and indefinable, but pervasive and cer- 
tain power, against which, in the case of most 
men brought up beneath the spell, the argu- 
ments of Protestantism were as ineffectual as 
the arguments of Zwingli against Luther's own 
bigoted **Hoc est meum corpus'* * 

Do not think that the priests themselves 
were deceived by this chicanery. Partly, they 
were ; partly, they did deceive themselves. It 
was with them as it was with those men in 

*Upon occasion, Luther was the most inveterate bigot. "Reason is 
an abominable prostitute," he says, when it serves his turn. " I will have 
nothing to do with your mathematics," he said to Zwingli, — that was his 
term for Zwingli*s rationalism, — ** Godis above mathematics ! " He says in 
one place, concerning the doctrine of the Trinity : " What matters it, if it 
does seem strange or foolish ? 'Tis not the question whether it be so or no, 
but whether it be grounded on God's Word or no." Nor was Luther free 
from many of the superstitions of his times. He seriously advocated the 
burning of Copernicus: and, of witches, he said: ''I should have no com- 
passion upon them. Bum them all." 



Isaiah, who, having warmed themselves and 
roasted a roast, whittled out a god from the 
residue of the stock of the tree, and worshipped 
it, crying, " Deliver me, for thou art my god." 
That is the most melancholy and hopeless 
state of mind in this world, — the mind of the 
man who, once having called a pair of breeches 
the breeches of St. Francis, straightway be- 
lieves his own invention and is afraid. But 
the chief priests were not afraid. They well 
understood the secrets of tailoring, and how it 
is that an ass has five legs or five hundred. 
The priests at Rome laughed in each other's 
faces and juggled with the people, eliciting 
their devout Amens to Latin heresies, blas- 
phemies and inanities, which they boldly sand- 
wiched into the Litany, by way of practical 
joking. " I would not have taken one hundred 
thousand florins not to have seen Rome," said 
Luther, speaking of the effect upon his mind of 
his pilgrimage thither. " Among other coarse 
talk, I heard one reading mass ; and, when he 
came to the words of consecration, he said, 
* Thou art bread, and shalt remain bread : thou 
art wine, and shalt remain wine.' What was 
I to think of this > Moreover, I was disgusted 
at the manner in which they could rattle ojff a 
mass, as if it had been a piece of jugglery ; for. 



long before I had reached the gospel lesson, 
my neighbor had finished his mass, and cried 
out to me, ' Enough ! enough ! hurry up and 
come away ! ' " Luther's nature was one espe- 
cially calculated to be shocked by this jugglery 
and sham. His mind was peculiarly practical, 
occupied with essential and important things. 
He was an awkward priest from the start. 
"When I first began to celebrate mass in 
Popedom," he says, " and to make such cross- 
ings, with marvellous twistings of the fingers, 
and could not rightly hit the way, I said, 
Mary, God's . Mother, how am I plagued with 
the mass, and especially with the crossings ! " 
This impatience of painful ritualism grew with 
him. Some one sent to him to know whether 
it were permissible to use warm water in bap- 
tism. "Tell the blockhead," he replied, "that 
water, warm or cold, is water." A complaint 
comes to him that a certain reformed preacher 
will not preach without a cassock. "Well," 
answers Luther, "what harm will a cassock 
do the man } Let him have three cassocks, 
if he find benefit in them ! " " You are not 
in earnest about calling a council," he said to 
the papal ambassador, who came to Witten- 
berg to confer with him. " If a council should 
be held, you would simply talk about hoods 



and tonsure, eating and drinking, and similar 
fool-work, which amounts to nothing." 

The kinds of men of whom the clergy were 
composed are well indicated by three utter- 
ances at the time of the first troubles at Wit- 
tenberg. " It is high treason against the 
Church," exclaimed Hochstraten, the inquisitor 
of Cologne, "to leave such a heretic alive an- 
other hour. Erect instantly the scaffold for 
him!" The Bishop of Brandenburg wrote 
privately to Luther, commending his zeal, and 
admitting that there was occasion for it, but 
telling him to be quiet. Priest Prierias wrote 
from Rome, "O dear Luther, wert thou to 
receive from our Lord, the Pope, a good bish- 
opric, thou wouldst sing smaller, and even 
preach up the indulgence which it is now thy 
pleasure to vilify." 

The pope must have laughed in the Vatican 
as he sent out his henchmen to sell indul- 
gences ; for it is not in reason that men of 
common sense, much less an astute scholar 
like Leo, could be sincere and religious in that 
business. This sale of indulgences, as is well 
known, was the immediate provocation of the 
Reformation. Theoretically, of course, indul- 
gence was conditioned by actual repentance ; 
and the doctrine is still a doctrine of the 



Chiych, just as it was. But, in Leo's time, I ^ 
the repentance part of it was utterly ignored. • 
No test of that was applied. The money was 
paid, the bill was given, and that completed 
the business. The Archbishop of Mainz, who 
had charge of the indulgences in Germany and 
was to have half the proceeds, was aiming 
simply to raise the price of his pallium, in 
securing which he had borrowed money of an 
Augsburg banker. We read that Tetzel, the 
agent with whom Luther first came into colli- 
sion in Saxony, claimed, as the dispenser of the 
treasure of the Church, to be on a level with 
St. Peter, and to have saved more souls than 
he. With the money counter before him and 
the papal red cross borne aloft, he proclaimed 
in the market-place, in stentorian voice, the 
virtues, prospective and retrospective, of his 
paper pardons. *' When one dropped a penny 
into the box," he said, "for a soul in purga- 
tory, as soon as the money chinked in the 
chest the soul flew up to heaven." And his 
companion. Friar Bartholomew, shouted always 
as he closed, '' Come and buy ! come and 
buy!" He classified sins and misdemeanors, 
fixing a definite price for the pardon of each. 
Thus, sacrilege, or church robbery and perjury, 
were rated at nine ducats ; a murder, already 


committed, at eight ducats; adultery, at six 
ducats, etc. 


Over this whole body of false doctrine and 
abominable living was spread the mantle of 
papal infallibility. "Though the Pope led 
people into hell," said one of the decretals, 
"they ought to follow him." The answer to 
every honest word of criticism and reproof was, 
Hear the Church; and the second time. Hear 
the Church ; and the third time — the stake. 
ij Rome would not argue, and the whole world 

. I bent. But here came a man who would not 

i — ■■ - - • . - - ^ . 

bend, and would make Rome argue. "The 

chief cause that I fell out with the pope," said 

Luther, " was this : the pope boasted that he 

was the head of the Church, and condemned 

all that would not be under his power and 

authority. This was not to be endured." 

Here at last was a man who would force the 

pope to show his credentials, who ventured to 

ask the authority for this authority. Luther, I 

have said, killed the pope. He did it by assert- 

\\ ing the principle that everything in this world 

^ 1 must give a reason for itself. " Luther," says 

I one, " has done more than any other man ever 

did to emancipate the human mind from usurped 


authority." "Luther," says Michelet, "was, in 
point of fact, the restorer of spiritual liberty 
to the ages which followed his era. If he did 
not absolutely create, he at least courageously 
signed his name to the great revolution which 
legalized in Europe the right of free examina- 
tion. To him, it is in great measure owing 
that we, of the present day, exercise in its 
plenitude that first great right of the human 
understanding, to which all the rest are at- 
tached and without which all the rest are 
naught. We cannot think, speak, write, read, 
for a single moment, without gratefully recall- 
ing to mind this enormous benefit of intel- 
lectual enfranchisement. The very lines I 
here trace, to whom do I owe it that I am able 
to send them forth, if not to the Liberator of 
modern thought ? " 

At times, when the flood of his inspiration 
is upon him, Luther declares the right of pri- 
vate judgment and freedom from all external 
authority with the same emphasis and fullness 
with which the prophet of to-day would speak. 
Just after the Leipzig disputation, he wrote in 
this strong way : " I believe myself to live in 
the kingdom of the truth. Therefore, I will be 
free and not give myself captive to any author- 
ity, be it that of the emperor or the univer- 


sities or the pope, in order that I may confi- 
dently declare every thing which I recognize 
as truth, be it maintained by a Catholic or a 
heretic, whether a church council has accepted 
or rejected it." At the time of the insurrec- 
tion of the peasants, in his address urging 
upon the German nobility the justice of the 
peasants' Twelve Articles y he writes as follows 
with reference to the article demanding the 
right of free election of their pastors by the 
congregations : " Authority must not and can- 
not interpose any prohibition of this, seeing 
that of right it should permit each man to 
teach and to believe that which to him seems 
good and fitting, whether it be gospel or 
whether it be false. All that authority is 
entitled to prohibit," he added, — herein antic- 
ipating Roger Williams and our whole modern 
view of toleration, — " is the preaching up of 
disorder and revolt." Luther was not indeed 
steadily true to his own highest insights and 

' utterances. He lived in the midst of confu- 
sions and of distracting practical problems, 

; which might have made it difficult for even a 
greater than himself to act always in beautiful 

; harmony with his theories ; but these were the 

, clear and resolute doctrines of his clear and 
resolute hours. 


Luther was the first great Rationalist. 
In him, Europe came to its majority. Pope 
means papa — is another form of that tender 
word. In Luther, mankind passed out of the 
period of papahood. But you will say that 
Luther simply substituted the Bible for the 
pope, the infallibility of dead writers for the 
infallibility of the present Church, and that he 
really did not get rid of the principle of pre- 
scriptive authority at all. And it is true 
enough that the manner in which Protestant- 
ism has made the Bible a pope has been a sad 
witness, up to our own time, of its poor grasp 
of the rational principle. In theory, an infal- 
lible present is certainly far nobler than an 
infallible past ; and, of course, neither Luther 
nor anybody else has ever been able to give a 
reason why any body of men, in any age, should 
be regarded as infallible, however excellent and 
true. That rigid and superstitious theory of 
the infallibility of the Hebrew writers, which 
was dominant among English and American 
Protestants a generation ago, and which we 
are all familiar with, Luther himself indeed was 
far from holding. Orthodox scholars like Canon 
Mozley, who know what they write about, and 
are beyond the stage of pious declamation, 
laugh at the attempt, in general, " to assimilate 


Luther's ethical and religious mould to that of 
an evangelical preacher of the present day." 
The Lutheran Church, in the course of time, 
gravitated into doctrines of plenary inspiration 
and infallible books; but, as Canon Westcott 
frankly states, " the later Lutherans abandoned 
the teaching of their great master on the 
written Word." "No church could rest on 
Luther's theory," says Canon Westcott, 
thereby recognizing the great difference be- 
tween the theory of Luther and the theory 
of current Orthodoxy and the Church. Dif- 
ferent men, of course, will have different 
minds as to whether Luther or Lutheranism 
is the wiser on this point, as on others. My 
desire here is simply to insist that Luther be 
held responsible only for his own doctrines. 
It is almost as necessary to distinguish be- 
tween Luther and Lutheranism as between 
Christ and popular " Christianity." Whatever 
generalities Luther sometimes utters as to the 
authority of Scripture, and however rigorously 
and vigorously he stickles for a text when, as 
in the quarrel with Zwingli, it seems to make 
in his favor, nothing is more evident than that 
his practical criterion of a book's authority 
was its agreement with his own reason. His 
own reason, his own immediate conviction, is 


always the first and commanding thing with 
Luther ; and he speaks of his own inspiration 
in the identical language in which he speaks 
of the inspiration of St. Paul and of the old 
prophets, with whom he is fond of comparing 
himself. "I am Isaiah. . . . Philip Melanch- 
thon is Jeremiah : that prophet stood always 
in fear." " The harsh and sharp words of the 
prophets go to the heart ; yet when they say, 
'Jerusalem shall fall and be destroyed/ the 
Jews held such preaching merely heretical, 
and would not endure it. Even so say I, The 
Romish Church shall fall and be destroyed ; 
but the papists will neither believe nor endure 
it." " St. Paul says, * I would they were cut 
off that trouble you.' I, too, Martin Luther, 
say," etc. When he came back to Wittenberg 
from the Wartburg, to check the excesses of 
Carlstadt and his party, he said to the people 
who crowded to the church to hear him, Carl- 
stadt himself among them : " Satan has sent 
you his prophets in my absence, but you ought 
to know that I am the only person you should 
listen to. Martin Luther is the first man of 
the Reformation : he, therefore, should com- 
mand, and you should obey. I am the man 
to whom God has revealed his Word." " I will 
submit my doctrine," he said, "neither to the 


pope nor to the emperor nor to the angels in 
heaven. Therein, I am judge; and he who 
does not receive my doctrine is damned.*' 
And yet stronger : " He who believes other- 
wise than I is a child of hell ; and whosoever 
condemns my doctrine, him will God con- 
demn, for my mouth is the mouth of Christ." 
" Kings, princes, lords," he says, in his Table- 
Talk^ " and any one will needs understand the 
gospel far better than I, Martin Luther, ay, 
or even than St. Paul ; for they deem them- 
selves wise and full of policy. But herein they 
scorn and contemn, not us, poor preachers and 
ministers, but the Lord and governor of all 
preachers and ministers, who has sent us to 
preach and teach, and who says, 'Whoso 
heareth you heareth me.' " " I am sure and 
certain," said Luther, "when I go up to the 
pulpit to preach or read, that it is not my 
word I speak, but that my tongue is the pen 
of a ready writer, as the Psalmist has it. God 
speaks in the prophets and men of God, as 
St. Peter in his Epistle says, * The holy men 
of God spake as they were moved by the 
Holy Ghost' In like manner, every hearer 
must say, I hear not St. Paul, St. Peter, or a 
man speak, but God himself." We read that 
BuUinger, to whom Luther said this and much 


more in the same strain, having attentively 
listened to the discourse, knelt down and 
uttered these words : '* O happy hour, that 
brought me to hear this man of God, the 
chosen vessel of the Lord, declaring his truth ! 
I abjure and utterly renounce my former 
errors, thus beaten down by God*s infallible 
Word." He then arose, and threw his arms 
around Luther's neck, both shedding joyful 

Probably Luther's own view of inspiration 
could not be shown more exactly than in the 
following passage from the Table-Talk: ** Mel- 
anchthon, discoursing with Luther touching 
the prophets, who continually boast thus : 
* Thus saith the Lord,' asked whether God in 
person spoke with them or no. Luther re- 
plied : ' They were very holy, spiritual people, 
who seriously meditated upon holy and divine 
things : therefore, God spake with them in 
their consciences, which the prophets held 
as sure and certain revelations.' " Of the in- 
spiration of no other does he speak in such 
decided and emphatic terms as of his own. 
"I surely know," he says, "that the doctrine 
I teach is God's Word." " I know for certain 
that what I teach is the only Word of the high 
majesty of God in heaven, his final conclusion 


and everlasting, unchangeable truth ; and what- 
soever concurs and agrees not with this doc- 
trine is altogether false, and spun by the 
devil. ... I have before me God's Word, which 
cannot fail. . . . We must not regard what or 
how the world esteems us, so we have the 
Word pure, and are certain of our doctrine. 
Hence, Christ in John viii. : 'Which of you 
convinceth me of sin ? And, if I say the truth, 
why do you not believe me } * All the apostles 
were most certain of their doctrine. . . . When 
a man has this certainty, he has overcome the 
serpent." He thus bases his inspiration upon 
the same grounds as that of the apostles and, 
apparently, of Christ himself, the ground of 
the true soul's immediate communion with 
God. But he has no doctrine of the infalli- 
bility of the apostles or the prophets of a 
character which forbids his criticising them in 
the same frank and free manner in which he 
criticises Melanchthon or Justus Jonas. "The 
apostles," he says, "did not sufficiently extol 
or explain Abraham's faith. I much marvel 
that Moses so slightly remembers him." 
Again: "The apostles themselves did not 
know everything, even after they had received 
the Holy Ghost." 
Luther made the Bible the rule of faith in 



the Church, because he believed that, for the 
most part, it supported what, both through 
Biblical and other influences, he was persuaded 
was the truth. But there is no bit of Bibli- 
olatry, or mere mechanical submission to 
Biblical authority, in Luther; and certainly 
there was never a freer critic of the canon than 
he. " See with your own eyes," he once said ; 
and, in dealing with the Bible as with every- 
thing else, he followed his own maxim. He 
handles the Testaments just as he handles the 
Apocryphas. ''I am so great an enemy," he 
says, ''to the Second Book of the Maccabees 
and to Esther that I wish they had not come 
to us at alL They are full of heathen 
unnaturalities." He ^j^oj^d, not believe that 
God commanded Abraham to kill his son. 
The miracles of the Old Testament sometimes 
quite stagger him, well inclined as he is to- 
entertain the marvelous, even in his own 
time. "The hisfoiy- of Elijah," he says, "is 
^most incredible." "The history of the 
prophet Jonah is almost incredible, sounding 
more strange than any poet's fable. If it 
were not in the Bible, I should take it for a 
lie; for consider how for the space of three 
days he was in the great belly of the whale, 
whereas in three hours he might have been 



digested/' The general futility of the mirac- 
ulous is well hinted by him in the remark, 
" If Moses had continued to work his miracles 
in Egypt but two or three years, the people 
would have become accustomed thereto, and 
heedless, as we who are accustomed to the sun 
and moon hold them in no esteem." "The 
Third Book of Esdras,'* he says, ** I throw into 
the Elbe." **The Book of Solomon's Proverbs 
is a fine book," but "it is not the work of 
Solomon." " The Book of the Kings is excel- 
lent, — a hundred times better than the Chron- 
icles, which constantly pass over the most 
important facts." As to the Book of Gen- 
esis, he said, " What matters it if Moses did 
not write it.^" His respect for Moses alto- 
gether was not great. " I will have none of 
Moses and his law," he says in one place, " for 
he is an enemy to Christ. If Moses will go 
to law with me, I will give him his despatch, 
and say, Here stands Christ." " Let us leave 
Moses to his laws," he says again, " excepting 
only the Moralia, which God has planted in 
nature." When some one asked him, "Did 
not Moses command us to obey our father 
and mother ? " he answered, " Yes ; and your 
obedience should come, not because Moses 
commanded, but because it is natural that you 



should obey your father and mother, and be- 
cause it is right." 

Turning to the New Testament, — " St. 
John's Gospel," he says, "and St. Paul's 
Epistles, especially those to the Romans, 
Galatians, and Ephesians, — these and St. 
Peter's First Epistle teach all which it is 
needful for thee to know, even if you never 
see or hear any other book." The Epistle to . 
the Hebrews, he says, was certainly not writ- ! 
ten by an apostle. It was, he thinks, "put ( ^ 
together out of many pieces." The Epistle ; 
of Jude is "indisputably an extract from the \ 
Second Epistle of Peter." Of the Apoca- 
lypse, he says : " I hold it to be neither apos- 
tolic *nor prophetic. . . . My spirit cannot 
acquiesce in the book." And he makes sport 
of the writer's threats against those who add 
to or take from his book, "when," observes 
Luther, " nobody knows what is in the book." 
"Let each man," he says, "judge of the book 
according to the light that is in him. I say 
simply what I think of it myself. Many of 
the Fathers of the Church rejected it. Every 
man is at liberty to treat it according to the 
dictates of his own mind." The ground on 
which he denies the inspiration of a book is 
always simply his individual opinion as to 



its doctrine or its style; and certainly no 
Tubingen professor of our own time ever 
proceeded with greater boldness or freedom 
in the matter. His freedom appears most 
(strikingly in his famous criticism of the 
{ (/Epistle of James. "It is an epistle of straw^' 
he said. " I will not have it in my Bible 
among the canonical books " ; " it has no char- 
acter of the gospel in it." It is "directly con- 
trary to St. Paul and to all the rest of the 
Scripture." " This James," he continues, "must 
have been some good, pious man, who had got 
hold of some sentences from the disciples of 
the apostles, and so put them on paper " ; but 
he was certainly no apostle, and he is "quite 
unequal to the task" which he undertakes. 

Luther's trouble with James* Epistle was 
simply that it has nothing of his favorite doc- 
trine of justification without works in it. The 
gospel, in Luther's mouth, generally means 
simply the doctrine of imputed righteousness. 
My own opinion of that doctrine is the opinion 
of Bishop Bull and of Canon Mozley. I am 
glad to be able to express myself in the lan- 
guage of so eminent a churchman as Canon 
Mozley, since my own position with regard to 
things ecclesiastical is such, fortunately or un- 
fortunately, that words of mine here, unembel- 



lished by aristocratic quotation marks, might 
not pass for much with some good people. 
"Formally and literally stated, then," says 
Canon Mozley, — and I beg to refer to his able 
discussion of this vitally important point, to 
which I can return only in the most cursory 
manner, — "the Lutheran doctrine of justifica- 
tion by faith is so inconsistent with the first 
principles of common sense and natural relig- 
ion that, in this shape, no human being can 
possibly believe it. It requires us to believe 
that that which makes a man pleasing to God, 
or justifies him, has nothing to do with morality 
or goodness in him; and, being moral creat- 
ures, we cannot believe this." Our own time, 
happily, I think, values the Epistle of James 
a good deal more highly than Luther did, and 
the doctrine of imputed sin and righteousness 
a good deal less. I quote his words upon the 
Epistle simply to show the utterly different 
way in which he approached the Bible from 
that which has prevailed in the Protestant 
Churches down quite to our own time, and 
is yet common. " When he criticises the Epis- 
tle of St. James in the passage quoted," says 
Canon Mozley, "and decides that it contains 
many excellent remarks, and that its author 
was doubtless a worthy man, though anti- 



quated in his opinions ; that he, Luther, did 
not consider him inspired, but had no objection 
to any one else considering him so who chose, 
we can almost suppose him dreaming, so little 
does he seem , to realize the shock he is giving 
to Christian faith." Such words as these — 
which, I take it, fairly express the feeling of 
our contemporary Orthodoxy — serve chiefly, to 
my mind, to show us, in strong light, the 
deeply rational grounds of Luther's faith, as 
opposed to the grounds of the common church- 
man, and how far removed he was from what 
men call the Protestant principle of authority. 
Luther was, I repeat, the first great Rational- 
ist. I do not mean by this, of course, to say 
that approval or tolerance is to be drawn from 
words of his for a thousand and one positions 
at which Rationalism in our day has arrived. 
That would be as arbitrary and ridiculous as 
the common attempt to make him appear in 
the garb of "an evangelical preacher of the 
present day,'* which Canon Mozley so properly 
makes sport of. I can imagine the thunder- 
storm there would have been in Wittenberg, 
had Luther chanced to have come there upon a 
copy of Unity or the Index. Yet I boldly as- 
sert — it does not need great boldness — that, 
coming into the science of our time with the 


same spirit with which he came into the science 
of four centuries ago, Martin Luther would 
have been, not Joseph Cook nor Moody and 
Sankey, — but Theodore Parker. 


Luther stands for Rationalism, He stands 
also for Intellectualism in religion. You think, 
perhaps, the two words mean one thing. I 
mean by Intellectualism here the doctrinal and 
speculative factor in religion, as contrasted with 


the ethical and practical. Protestantism was 
primarily an intellectual movement. I do not 
say it was not a moral movement too. I have 
pointed out some of the gross immoralities 
which provoked it, and there is no doubt that 
these were what first and chiefly moved the 
masses to the Reformation. But Luther saw, 
I Protestantism saw or believed it saw, the cause 
of the immorality to be false doctrine ; and it 
believed the cure to be true doctrine. Herein 
— ui its primary intellectualism — the Lu- 
theran movement differs from the Wesleyan 
movement and, in a very great degree, from 
Christianity. Herein it resembles the Uni- 
tarian movement in New England. "The 
scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat," 



said Christ. "All, therefore, whatsoever they 
bid you observe, that observe and do, but do 
not ye after their works." And Wesley had 
very little trouble with the English catechism, 
but very much trouble with English immorality 
and irreligion. But, with Luther, the case is 
J different. He was not primarily a practical 
, reformer, but a doctrinal refqrnier. "Wiclif 
and Huss," he said, "assailed the immoral con- 
duct of the papists ; but I chiefly oppose and 
resist their doctrine. I affirm, roundly and 
plainly, that they preach not the truth. To 
this I am called. I take the goose by the neck 
and set the knife to its throat. I fall upon the 
pope's soul,— his doctrine,— not regarding his 
body, — that is, his wicked person and life. 
When I can show that the papists* doctrine is 
false, which I have shown, then I can easily 
prove that their manner of life is evil. For 
when the word remains pure, the manner of 
life, though something therein be amiss, will 
be pure also.** With his usual reckless incon- 
sistency, he says on the same page, " Our 
manner of life is as evil as that of the papists " ; 
and we well know that he did pay very much 
regard to, the pope's "wicked person and life." 
But this passage truly and well illustrates the 
fundamental character of Luther's mind and 



the order of his thought. ** If any man will do 
God's will/' said Jesus, "he shall know of the 
doctrine." If any man hath the pure doc- 
trine, said Luther, more like Paul, his life 
will be pure also. The life, — that is the first 
thing with Jesus ; the truth, — that is always 
the first thing with Luther. I do not make the 
antithesis for the sake of condemning Luther. 
I hold both sayings to be true, though each 
is only half of the truth. What is Luther's 
truth.? What is the real meaning and virtue 
of his doctrine of justification by faith, if we 
can get it out of its ghostly and unreal theo- 
logical atmosphere, into the natural, wholesome 
light of day .? Is it not this, — that, if ^ou 
want to make a hero of a man, the surest way 
to do it is to fill his mind with some great and 
noble idea, some conception of life, of neigh- 
borhood, of the State, of destiny, of this God's 
universe, very much loftier and more com- 
manding than he has had before } Place two 
men together in the battle, — two men of equal 
courage and of equal honor. Tell this one to 
fight valiantly where he is placed, on the side 
where he sees good men are ranged, and more 
and more he shall find out what it is all about, 
and in the end be satisfied ; and let this other 
l^ave cl^^r consciousness th^t the flag which 


leads him is the flag of his State, that the State 
is in him and behind him, and that the just 
cause, well understood, in which his sword is 
drawn, is that of his State's honor and salva- 
tion. In whose arteries, think you, will the 
blood course reddest and most dynamic, and 
which is likeliest to be the herb ? Or give a 
man a grand and true conception of humanity 
and history. Teach him that his freedom and 
every privilege he holds great and sacred, — the 
book, the school, the State, science, art, law 
and decency, even each steady impulse to what 
is good and public, — that every institution and 
possession which represents unselfishness and 
differentiates him from the boor, the black- 
guard, the savage and the brute, — that every 
one of these is the outcome and the monument 
of the devotion and the martyrdom of the ages, 
the witness that, for humanity's sake and 
truth's sake, men through the long generations, 
superior to every suffering and temptation, have 
kept the faith, — such faith as their time had 
come to, — not counting their lives dear unto 
them. Teach him that, make him really under- 
stand and appropriate it, and do you not clearly 
see that, by such a sense of the cost of society 
and the profound significance of human his- 
tory, a man who has any manhood in him to 



be stirred is going to be made a larger and 
more dutiful man, a more saintly and heroic 
one, than you can ever make him by telling 
him, ever so Sinaitically, Do your duty, do the 
right, just because it is right? Other men 
have labored, and we have entered into their 
labors ; and gratitude, with throbbing heart, 
leaps up to answer grace. Are we debtors to 
the past ? Then, we must be creditors of the 
future, and so stand justified in our member- 
ship in the great body of humanity, to whose 
soul — be praised, O Heaven, — 

" The past and the time to be are one, 
And both are now." 

Humanity, the Holy Ghost of God and Truth 
in humanity, has wrought for us these benefits 
and nobilities. Humanity hath borne our 
griefs and carried our sorrows ; it was wounded 
— and will be wounded — for our transgres- 
sions ; it was bruised for our iniquities ; the 
chastisement of our peace was upon it; and 
with its stripes we are healed. 

I believe — I may be wrong, but I believe — 
that this is the essential and eternal truth in 
Luther's doctrine of imputed sin and righteous- 
ness, and points the way to worthy understand- 
ing of what Protestantism calls "the scheme 


of salvation." This scheme, be sure, would 
never have gotten such grasp upon the souls of 
men, did it not stand for truth ; and the New 
Faith will never get beyond it by negation, but 
only by intelligent and sincere subsumption of 
it in a higher synthesis. Men must be taught, 
it seems, in religion, as in all besides, by object 
lessons; and Christ was the great object les- 
son, for the Western World, of the conception of 
humanity as one in essence and idea with the 
Power by which the worlds are and were 

Luther's inveterate and almost wrathful de- 
preciation of good works as affecting man's 
salvation seems to me a radical mistake. The 
theory of the old Church, however bad its 
practice, was better than this. This casts a 
slur on that which we count first in life, and 
ever must count first, — morality and character. 
Nor can it be successfully denied, I think, that 
its effects in Protestant Christendom — so far 
as it has had effects, and not been neutralized 
or complemented by elementary human rea- 
son — have been mischievous. The Church 
has substituted vouchers of agonies and illum- 
inations as the rule to govern her baptisms, 
for her master's simple canon, By their fruits 
ye sl^all kno^y then^ ; and orthodoxy is a mor^ 


potent credential than philanthropy for her 
high places. Thus has she hurt her own re- 
pute and, what is worse, impaired her virtue 
and her sanity. 

What especially stirred Luther to so great 
dislike of Aristotle was Aristotle's doctrine that 
good works make the habit or principle, — that 
a man becomes just by doing just acts. "We 
must first be just," cried Luther, ''and then 
we shall do just actions.'* "It grieves me to 
the heart," he said, "that the damned, arro- 
gant, rascally heathen with his false words 
has seduced and befooled so many Chris- 
tians." But Luther should have known that, 
evtn with Aristotle, the good deed gets all its 
moral value, is a moral deed at all, only from 
and througli its motive ; and it is hard for us to 
understand how he should not have known also 
that a pure motive to a good deed is possible 
with no theology and no philosophy at all, and 
that every such good deed helps genuinely 
both to fix good habit and to induce the mind 
toward truth. The Church's doctrine, formu-i 

j lated in the Thirteenth Article of the Thirty- 
nine, that all good works done "out of Christ," j 

\as the phrase is, — that is, done by those who ' 
po not believe the Creed, — are of the nature | 

/of sin, and displeasing in the sight of God, is| 


Ivthe most monstrous and immoral doctrine into 

n which theologians were ever betrayed by thfik. 

1 I mad schematizing. 

But, arbitrary, violent and one-sided as Lu- 

fther's doctrine is, it is_a mighty witne ss t o 

the omnipotence of ideas and the certain truth 

{ that everything must come to the intellectual 
justification in the end. The dictum of Soc- 
rates, that knowledge is virtue, may be true or 
may not be. Ideally, I hold it true. Practi- 
cally, it is an unsafe proverb, since knowledge 
is never perfect ; and we are all acquainted well 
enough with the immorality and selfishness of 
most enlightened men, and the moral excellence 
of bigots and of fools. But, it truth be not 
goodness, it is certainly the next thing to it in 
this world ; and the New Faith would make a 
great mistake if, in any abandonment to the 
ethical and humanitarian passion, which now 
at last seems to be genuinely and nobly devel- 
oping in it, and in which all men must rejoice, 
it neglected for a moment its duty in the direc- 
tion of rationalism and enlightenment. Never 
be patient with that common saying, that it 
does not matter what a man believes, so long 
as his heart is right. It does matter. It is of 
immense importance that a man s creed be 
right, as well as his heart. His creed is going 


to tell upon his heart most mightily with the 
years ; and, day by day, it is going to determine 
whether he will deal with this duty to his 
brother man and with this great public interest 
in a large way or a small way. No wise and 
serious man, it seems to me, can lift up his 
eyes and see how, even in this free and en- 
lightened America, all about you, in your street, 
in your house, family life is embittered, friends 
alienated, lovers torn asunder, faithful and able 
scholars elbowed into attics that pedants and 
parrots may teach in your colleges, a thousand 
sacred and public interests settled without 
reason, entailing waste and misery and injustice 
horrible, all through the ignorance, the super- 
stition, the narrow-mindedness and false creed 
of good people, — people, as you say, whose 
hearts are right, people of good intentions, — 
no man, I say, can see this, no man, into whose 
soul the iron of it has entered, can see this 
without crying out, in agony of anger, the old 
word, Hell is paved with good intentions : 
what you need is light and knowledge, — the 
eye of a better, larger creed above your blind 
good intentions. It is not enough to be good 
in this world: we must also be true, alto- 
gether true, always lifting up our creed into 
conformity with the highest science of our 



time, always keeping our minds alert for new 
knowledge, and always standing resolutely for 
the largest and noblest philosophy which it 
is possible for us to reach. The Unitarian 
movement in New England may have erred by 
over-intellectualism. Channing, in his later 
' years, had sad misgivings as to its nature and 
its fate, because, like Lutheranism, it was not 
primarily an impulse for the moral regeneration 
of society and of the soul. But let not the 
New Faith ever err by under-intellectualism. 
Let no noble enthusiasm for humanity and 
good works betray us into slighting science, 
faith, philosophy and speculation. Speculation 
is the wings of the mind, — for the mind is a 
winged thing, and not a creeping thing. Con- 
cepts without intuitions, Kant said, are empty : 
intuitions without concepts are blind. In such 
wise complementary and inter-dependent are 
faith and works, philosophy and duty. Faith 
without works, said St. James, in the text so 
hated by Luther, is dead; and works without 
faith, duty without philosophy or outlook, may 
not expect long life. 



But an enlightened creed is only one factor 
in an excellent life. "Thou believest that 
there is one God," says this same decried St. 
James : " thou doest well ; the devils also be- 
lieve." And, if Luther really believed that, 
if a man once grasped the Protestant doctrine, 
his life would become holy, he was doomed 
to terrible disappointment. The preaching of 
Protestantism, all through Luther's life, seemed 
chiefly to be making the world not better, but 
worse. The very common idea of the Reform- 
ation as a universal revival of religion is a very 
superficial and untrue idea. The history of the 
Reformation is like that of every great period 
of religious transition. The world was full of 
men whose eyes were open to the glaring sins 
and superstitions of the old religion, and who 
were pouring ridicule and satire upon them 
in every way that might not invite the stake. 
Europe was honeycombed with scepticism and 
cynicism and uncleanness, only less general 
than those of old Rome when Christ and Chris- 
tianity appeared. Into this comes Luther, with 
bolder and more outspoken unbelief in the old 
Church than the boldest sceptic of them all, 
but with a deep, new truth, which they know 



nothing of. To the old Church, he appears 
but as one of these, only as the most uneasy 
and defiant of its assailants, — just as, to the 
orthodox paganism of old Rome, Christianity 
seemed only one atheism among the other athe- 
isms, which were making men neglect the 
ritual and desert the temples. To the great 
mass of malcontents, Luther was welcome, 
because he spoke out their antagonism and 
unbelief so much better than they could ever 
do it; and multitudes caught up his doc- 
trines of private judgment and free thought 
as the instrument and sanction of abomina- 
I tions. Where the new gospel made one relig- 

ious man, it simply unsettled ten, — undermin- 
ing their faith in the priests and sacraments 
and authority of the old Church, while power- 
less to give them the new faith, since to most 
men, and especially in religion, a thing ^ets 
sanctity only when it gets age. Luther had 
to face the chaos which every reformer must 
expect in a period of religious upheaval. " He 
had the pain of seeing, one after another, 
various tendencies in the Reformation prema- 
turely brought out and exhibited in exaggerated 
shape and with accompaniments of violence 
and horror before the world." "As soon as 
Spiritualism had made a breach in the old 


edifice of the Church," says Heine, " sensual- 
ism with all its long restrained fervor of pas- 
sion threw itself into it, and Germany became 
the tumultuous arena of combatants intoxicated 
with liberty. The history of Germany at this 
time consists of little else than sensualistic 
riots. Everywhere, the doors of monasteries 
flew open, and monks and nuns rushed billing 
and cooing into each other's arms. High prel- 
ates began to reflect whether they might not 
marry their cooks. The towns* deputies re- 
joiced at the prospect of increased independ- 
ence. Each had here something to gain, and 
the secret thoughts of each were directed to 
earthly advantage. For the Catholic party, it 
is easy to assign the worst motives ; and, to 
hear them speak, one would suppose that the 
sole object of the Reformation were to legiti- 
mize the most shameless sensuality and to 
plunder the goods of the Church. We pres- 
ently see how small was the result of this reac- 
tion, how Spiritualism succeeded in overcoming 
these rioters, and how it gradually secured its 

"One man was there," says Heine, "who 
was not thinking of earthly advantages, but of 
the divine interests which he represented. 
This man was Martin Luther, the poor monk 



chosen by Providence to shatter the world- 
empire of Rome." But now iconoclasts and 
libertines, demagogues and lunatics of every 
sort, were abroad, haranguing the people and 
calling Luther their father. "My friends have 
done as much to injure me as my enemies," he 

\ said. He was held responsible for all the 
mad doings of Anabaptists and Antinomians ; 

I and every criine in the" calendar, offspring of 
. I the general unsettlement, was charged to his 

I account. "They reproach me with all this,*' 
he cried, " me, unhappy Martin Luther. They 
reproach me, too, with the revolt of the peas- 
ants, and with the sacramentarian sects, as 
though I had been their author." He saw a 
hard, materialistic spirit manifesting itself all 
about him ; and, among his own pi onounced 
followers, anything but a strong, unit ^d, satis- 
fying religious life. The common people, he 
wrote, after a visitation among the country vil- 
lages, " live like cattle and irrational swine ; 
and, now that the gospel has come to them, 
they understand how to abuse their liberty 
in a masterly manner. O ye bishops," he 
adds, well knowing where the responsibility 
lies, " how will ye be able to give an account 
to Christ, that ye have suffered the common 
people to be degraded in ignorance, and have 
not given full proof of your ministry?" 



There was, undoubtedly, much truth in what 
Erasmus wrote to Hutten, that Luther's fol- 
lowers were made up of these three classes: 
first, learned and well-meaning people, who 
approve of most of his doctrines, and wish to 
see the power of the pope and bishops re- 
strained; a second class of men, without edu- 
cation or judgment, and of impure lives, who 
adhere to Luther without accepting his teach- 
ing or even knowing what it is ; a third class, 
whose only object is booty and plunder, and 
who only make a pretext of the gospel. I see, 
continued Erasmus, many Lutherans, but few 
evangelicals. If Hutten knew of people who 
spent their time in reading the Scriptures and 
pious converse, instead of with women, in drink- 
ing and play; who, instead of cheating about 
debts, freely gave to the needy; who, instead 
of insulting those who have never harmed 
them, would give a soft answer to an angry 
word ; who, instead of making disturbances, 
promote peace and good-will, — if Hutten would 
show Erasmus Lutherans like these, he would 
joyfully join himself to them. If there were 
any such, they were extremely rare. 

Luther himself was plunged into deep mel- 
ancholy by the poor and inadequate results 
which he s^w. It often seemed as though all 


that he meant for good was turned to evil. 
" The Devil often assaults and perplexes me by 
objecting that, out of my doctrine, great of- 
fences and much evil have proceeded." "The 
darkness," he said, "grows thicker around us, 
and godly servants of the Most High become 
rarer and rarer. Impiety and licentiousness 
are rampant, I hope the last day will not be 
long delayed." " Sodom and Gomorrah," he 
wrote in 1530, "were never one-tenth part so 
wicked as Germany is now. ... It is a strange 
and grievous thing that the world hath become 
worse and worse since the revival of the true 
doctrine of the gospel. . . . Every one perverts 
Christian liberty into carnal wantonness. . . . 
If I could do it according to my conscience, I 
would advise and assist to bring back the rule 
of the pope." Again and again, we find him 
wishing, in his hours of despondency, that he 
had " never begun this business with the pope." 
But this is only in his hours of despondency. 
His common word is, "This is what was to be 
expected, this is the way of the world." " I 
will fight it out. I know my quarrel and cause 
are just. On, in God's name!" 

How deep a lesson there is in all this for the 
adherent and apostle of the New Faith of our 
own day ! The laws which governed thought 



in Luther's time rule also in the time of 
Emerson and, little changed by changing cir- 
cumstance, will work inexorably through the 
centuries. Ever the prophet of new truth will 
appear, to the establishments and orthodoxies 
of his time, as the lawless, unbelieving man, 
like the other unbelievers ; and the more ear- 
nest and sincere he is, the more dangerous will 
the orthodoxies count him, — sincere and hypo- 
critical orthodoxies alike, — and the more ear- 
nestly will they seek to silence him. The 
reformer must always appear, in the first place, 1 
as the negator of what is established, alwaysjf y 
as a breaker of idols. " The painful but indis-l ^ 
pensable first preparative for true sovereigns 
getting place among us," says Carlyle, " I find 
to be a revolt against false sovereigns." This 
necessary negative element in new truth wins 
for it the quick applause of all the restless, the ^ 
reckless, and the faithless, — all those to whom 
the criticism of the popular theology is a mere 
Mephistophelian game, or who are hostile to' 
it no more because of its obvious intellectual 
defects than because it stands, in its way, for 
what is transcendental, conserving, and relig- 
ious. The rising new faith of an age will ever 
draw the faithless to its standard, not because 
they spiritually apprehend the faith, but be- 



cause they are tickled by the novelty, the neg- 
ativeness and the idol-breaking; and the new 
faith must ever be prepared to pay the price 
of disrepute from libertine applause and fol- 
lowing, alike in Corinth, in Wittenberg and in 
Boston. It must also be prepared for what will 
certainly ensue, and what is hardest for the 
philanthropic mind to bear, — to see itself, in 
its own day, the creator, not chiefly of a deeper 
faith among the masses of mankind, but rather 
of unfaith, — destroying, as it does, false sanc- 
tions, which were, nevertheless, sustaining and 
commanding, and which only the idealizing 
influences of time can replace or teach the 
multitude of mechanic and dependent minds 
to see in itself. Such are the birth-throes by 
which new truth comes into society and into 
the soul. This is the great law which the 
reformer must learn to recognize, and before 
whose operations he must school his heart, 
how merciful and loving soever, not to shrink. 
The years shall be his sure justifiers ; and upon 
their potency and their perspective he may 
peacefully rely, unmoved by any sufEering or 
disorder, if he is sure of his truth, into mis- 
giving or regret for having "begun this busi- 
ness with the pope." " Luther and his Prot- 
estantism," says Carlyle, "are not responsibly 



for wars ; the false Simulacra that forced him 
to protest, they are responsible. Luther did 
what every man that God has made has not 
only the right, but lies under the sacred duty 
to do : answered a Falsehood when it ques- 
tioned him. Dost thou believe me } No ! at 
what cost soever, without counting of costs, 
this thing behoved to be done. Union, organi- 
zation, spiritual and material, a far nobler than 
any Popedom or Feudalism in their truest days, 
I never doubt, is coming for the world; sure 
to come. But on Fact alone, not on Semblance 
and Simulacrum, will it be able either to come, 
or to stand when come." To-day is Luther's 
justification. To-morrow, faithful, fearless soul, 
shall be your own. To-morrow, the great vision 
which inspires you and which men dread to-day 
shall be an institution and a universal sacra- 
ment. " There will be a new church founded 
on moral science, at first cold and naked, a 
babe in a manger again, the algebra and 
mathematics of ethical law, the church of men 
to come, without shawms or psaltery or sack- 
but ; but it will have heaven and earth for its 
beams and rafters; science for symbol and 
illustration; it will fast enough gather beauty, 
music, picture, poetry. Was never stoicism 
so stern and exigent as this shall be. It shall 



send man home to his central solitude, shame 
these social, supplicating manners, and make 
him know that much of the time he must have 
himself to his friend. He shall expect no co- 
operation, he shall walk with no companion. 
The nameless Thought, the nameless Power, 
the superpersonal Heart, — he shall repose alone 
on that. He needs only his own verdict. No 
good fame can help, no bad fame can hurt him. 
The Laws are his consolers, the good Laws 
themselves are alive, they know if he have 
kept them, they animate him with the leading 
of great duty, and an endless horizon.'* 


Always the world's pomp and power on this 
hand ; on that hand, for God's truth, one man ! 
Individualism^ — if we must put into one word 
that new and distinctive thing which Luther 
and Protestantism stand for, it must be individ- 
ualism. "The principle of moral individual- 
ism'* rightly says Principal Tulloch, "of the 
free, responsible relation of every soul to God, — 
this it is which stamps the movement of Luther 
with its characteristic impress and, more than 
any other thing, enables us to understand its 



power and success.* It was this element of 
individualism that had become especially cor- 
rupted during many centuries of ecclesiastical 
bondage. Scholasticism on the one hand and 
monkery on the other had crushed it out of 
sight. A vast system of traditionalism, cover- 
ing every sphere of thought and every phase of 
society, left no room for any fresh and healthy 
individual life. The individual was nothing: 
the school or the Church was everything. . . . 
In various forms, the smouldering life of these 
centuries had continued to show itself ; it had 
burst forth in the magnanimous intrepidity of 
Jerome and Huss, and the beautiful mysticism 
of Tauler and the Theologia Germanka ; but 
now, at length, the fire of a strong individual 
conviction was kindled in the convent at Erfurt, 
which was destined to cover with its glory the 
face of Europe. . . . The hearts of men were 
weary with seeking salvation in the way of the 

* " There is perhaps no event in history which has been represented in 
so great a variety of lights as the Reformation. It has been called a revolt 
of the laity against the clergy, or of the TeutonicT races against the Italians, 
or of the kingdoms of Europe against the universal monarchy of the popes. 
Some have seen in it only a burst of long-repressed anger at the luxury of 
the prelates and the manifold abuses of the ecclesiastical system ; others, a 
renewal of the youth of the Church by a return to primitive forms of doc- 
trine. All these, indeed, to some extent it was; but it was also something 
more profound, and fraught with mightier consequences than any of them. 
It was in its essence the assertion of the principle of truHvidtuUity^ — that is 
to say, of true spiritual freedom. Hitherto, the personal consciousness had 



priests ; and, as the voice of the monk of Wit- 
tenberg was heard crying : ' No priest can save 
you, — no masses or indulgences can help you ! 
but God has saved you, — he himself, and no 
mediatory saints, no holy mother of God even, 
but God himself,' . . . this faith in a divine 
righteousness near to every soul made for it- 
self a living way among the nations, and carried 
with it, wherever it went, liberty and strength." 
Not what the Church said, not what the 
Emperor said, nor Diets, nor Universities, but 
only that which his own mind affirmed to be 
the truth, — only that should henceforth bind 
the man, and that should absolutely bind him. 
The soul which has created institutions is 
more than they, and closer to the secret and 
the power of God than every sacrament and 
every sanction. The voice of the whole multi- 
tude may be the voice of confusion, the voice 
[ of the single man may be the voice of God. 

Luther s "Here I stand" was the first and the 

been a faint and broken reflection of the universal ; obedience had been held 
the first of religious duties ; truth had been conceived as a something exter- 
nal and positive, whose saving virtue lay not in its being felt and known to 
be truth, but in a purely formal and unreasoning acceptance. . . . Now, that 
I which was external and concrete was to be superseded by that which was 

; inward and spiritual. It was proclaimed that the individual spirit, while it 

I continued to mirror itself in the world-spirit, was nevertheless a centre of 

I self-issuing force, and was to be in all things active rather than passive. 

I Truth was no longer to be truth to the soyl, until it should have been by the 

•oul recognized, and in some measure even created 1" — Bryct* 



most memorable assertion in the modern world 
of that great principle of individualism and the 
sacred ri ght and duty of private judgment, which 
has been the mightiest instrument against pre- 
tension and ab use, and wrought that greater 
degree of justice, reason and enlightenment, 
which we enjoy. It has kept ringing on through 
the centuries, to Emerson's " Good men must 
not obey the laws too well," and **Let the single 
man plant himself on his instincts, and the great 
world shaTr~come round to him/' It spoke in 
Puritanism ; it was the Quaker's Inner Light ; 
Lowell declared it, when he sang, " The scaffold 
sways the future"; and Frederick Douglass, 
when he saidj "One is ja. majority with God." 
Or, going backward, it was in Athanasius 
against the world; it was in Paul's "I think I 
have the spirit of God " ; it was in the sure 
" Thus saith the Lord " of the Hebrew prophet 
and the Arab sage ; it was in the sublime con- 
fidence of Jesus, " I and my Father are one." 

For "at bottom," says Carlyle, "it was no 
new saying : it was a return to all old sayings 
that ever had been said. Be genuine, be sin- 
cere : that was, once more, the meaning of it." 
" The right of private judgment will subsist in 
full force wherever true men subsist. A true 
man believes with his whole judgment, with all 







the illumination and discernment that is in him, 
and has always so believed. A false man, only 
struggling to ' believe that he believes,' will nat- 
urally manage some other way. Protestantism 
said to this latter, Woe ! and to the former. Well 
done ! " 

"The exercise of private judgment," says 
Carlyle further, " faithfully gone about, does by 
no means necessarily end in selfish independ- 
ence, isolation, but rather ends necessarily in 
the opposite of that. It is not honest inquiry 
that makes anarchy ; but it is error, insincerity, 
half-belief and untruth, that make it. A man 
protesting against error is on the way toward 
uniting himself with all men that believe in 
truth. There is no communion possible among 
men who believe only in hearsays. . . . Such a 
man cannot unite with men : he is an anarchic 
man. Only in a world of sincere men is unity 
possible ; and there, in the long run, it is as 
good as certain^ 

The favorite watchword of to-day among our 
liberal leaders is not individualism^ but rather 
socialism^ — co-operation^ association^ solidarity. 
The prophet of the next brief time will not, 
perhaps, be so much Emerson as Mazzini. A 
pure and noble prophet, and solidarity a great 
and noble, necessary word ! It was not absent 


from the thought of Emerson, but present there 
with ever greater frequency and force as his 
years went on. "Emerson," says Lowell, 
" reverencing strength, seeking the highest out- 
come of the individual, has found that society 
and politics are also main elements in the at- 
tainment of the desired end, and has drawn 
steadily man ward and worldward." **Age 
brought with it," says his biographer, " an even 
warmer glow of interest in his fellow-men ; and 
the new life of the Republic brought to him an 
enlarged perception of the organic life of the 
race in its relations to morals and religion. He 
came to see a new value in a united religious 
life for the people, though abating no jot of his 
soul trust." Yet it is not as the prophet of 
solidarity, but as the prophet of individualism, 
that Emerson chiefly speaks to us, and will 
speak ; nor may we safely, in any noble enthusi- 
asm for association, neglect his primary appeal 
to individual virtue, his primary method of the 
regeneration of the individual soul, nor his warn- 
ing not to expect more out of concert than we 
put into it. " No institution,*' he said, "will be 
better than the institutor." "There can be no 
concert in two, where there is no concert in 
one." This is the truth for which, above all 
else, Luther and Protestantism stand; and, 

whenever men are in danger of neglecting this, 
then is that occasion timely and beneficent, 
which brings before the mind again the scenes 
of Wittenberg and Worms. 

Individualism — private judgment, faithfully 
gone about — does not end in selfish isolation, 
says Carlyle, but rather ends necessarily in the 
opposite of that. Not in anarchy, but in ra- 
tional fraternity. Why } Because this is God's 
world, and not the devil's ; because the essence 
and first principle of it is reason, and not anarchy, 
truth and not falsehood, freedom and not fate. 
The sure cure and the only one for all evils 
wrought by rationalism is more rationalism and 
better. The honest thinker, however severe 
and destructive his thoughts, may think bravely 
on, undisturbed by any sufferings or disorder, 

" Certain, if Knowledge bring the sword, 
That Knowledge takes the sword away." 

Reason working itself out, having its perfect 
work, must needs bring rational relations and 
that free order which reflects the divine origi- 
nal. Freedom is not caprice ; and so it is that 
the great prophets of individualism who have 
most deeply moved the world have been pre- 
cisely they who have recognized most deeply 
and devoutly the Universal Law, which will in 


no wise conform to us, but to which it is the 
grand, ennobling quality of life to teach us to 
conform with confidence and joy. The great 
prophets of Freedom have been also the great 
prophets of the Beautiful Necessity ; the great 
believers in the soul, the great believers, too, 
in God. " I would wish all men to know and 
lay to heart," says Carlyle, our own time's 
great prophet of individualism, "that he who 
discerns nothing but Mechanism in the Uni- 
verse has in the fatalest way missed the secret 
of the Universe altogether. That all Godhood 
should vanish out of men's conception of this 
Universe seems to me precisely the most brutal 
error — I will not disparage Heathenism by 
calling it a Heathen error — that men could fall 
into. A man who thinks so will think wrong 
about all things in the world ; this original sin 
will vitiate all other conclusions he can form." 
And Emerson's most penetrating and persist- 
ent word is this : " O my brothers, God is ! " 
The soul is soul, because God is ; the individual 
infinite and omnipotent, because the command- 
ing Universal is behind him and within him, 
and beneath him are the Everlasting Arms. 
" God drives me," Luther used to say : " I am 
not master of myself." "Great people and 
champions," he said, "are special gifts of God, 


whom he gives and preserves: they do their 
work, and achieve great things, not with vain 
imaginations, or cold and sleepy thoughts, but 
by motion of God." And again, " I only read 
in the Bible at Erfurt in the monastery ; and 
God then wonderfully wrought, contrary to all 
human expectation, so that I was constrained 
to depart from Erfurt, and was called to Witten- 
berg, where, under God, I gave the devil, the 
pope of Rome, such a blow as no emperor, king, 
or potentate could have given him ; yet it was 
not I, but God by me, his poor, weak, and un- 
worthy instrument." Ever this consciousness 
of constraint and service, the feeling that it is 
not he that works, but the spirit of God that 
works by him. This greatest representative of 
individualism is precisely he from whose armory 
the opponents of the doctrine of freedom may 
get their most effective weapons. The very 
term free-will was odious to him, as seeming to 
endanger that doctrine of divine necessity 
which was to him the doctrine ever paramount 
and present. 




Always, the world's pomp and power on this 
hand : on that hand, for God's truth, one man ! 
Yet not exactly so. Pomp and power, pope 
and emperor, diets and doctors, — these indeed 
on this hand ; but, behind the one man on that 
hand, behind this prophet of God's truth and 
this fearless bearder of lions, the great warm 
heart and the ready right arm of the common 
people. The common people heard him gladly : 
they r ecognized the righteousness of his pro- 
test, they got new life and manhood in hi3 
sincerity, they exulted in his courage, they 
cTTeered him by their blessings and their plead- 
ings, and they saw in his triumphs and his 
power bright visions of a better society and a 
larger life for themselves. So it has ever been 
since States began ; while privilege has plot- 
ted with police, and priests and scribes have 
leagued together in God's name to crush the 
new truth which boded ill to their ancient, 
false-grown phrases and their reverend, com- 
fortable prerogatives. 

The honest souls among the clergy them- 
selves rejoiced and admired the courageous 
monk. " He is the one that will do it," cried 
out one simple monk with joy, when he read 




the theses : " he has come, for whom we have 
so long, waited.*' And even the Abbot of 
Hersfeld received him with distinguished 
honors as he returned from Worms, in spite 
of ban and interdict. " He sent his chan- 
cellor and chamberlain to welcome me," writes 
Luther to Spalatin, " a league from town : he 
himself received me with a great retinue near 
his castle, and escorted me into the city. At 
the gates, I was greeted by the chief magis- 
trate. In the monastery, I was gloriously 
lodged and entertained; the following morn- 
ing at five o'clock, I was urged to preach, 
though I declined. The next day, the abbot 
accompanied us to the edge of the woods." 

The nature of the popular feeling is well 
illustrated by the account of Luther's journey 
to Worms. His progress was a perpetual 
triumph. He set out with the prayers and 
good wishes of all the people of Wittenberg, in 
a carriage provided by the town council, the 
students and teachers of the university and 
many others being assembled to witness his de- 
parture, and hundreds of the students accom- 
panying him beyond the city gates. As he 
passed through the towns and villages, the 
people came forth in numbers to greet him ; 
and, at the hotels where he rested, crowds 


thronged to see him. At Leipzig, a cup was 
presented him by the magistrates of the city. 
At Erfurt, he preached; and the church was 
crowded with his friends and the monks from 
his old convent. In Gotha and Eisenach, he 
also preached to enormous crowds. Every- 
where, he was treated with the greatest con- 
sideration, the pride which the German people 
felt in their heroic champion being clouded 
only by their fears as to his fate. His entry 
into Worms, says one, was more like that of 
a warrior returning from battle than that of 
a criminal going to judgment. The town 
trumpeter, from his watch-tower, had an- 
nounced the approach of the procession ; and 
a great concourse was in waiting at the city 
gates. A thousand students, who had gathered 
to the great session, welcomed him with their 
greetings, and all the streets were thronged 
with people anxious to behold the man with 
whose bold defiance of the priests and powers 
they sympathized so heartily. Mothers lifted 
their infants high into the air. So great was|( 
the crowd that pressed to see him that he had 1 ( 
to be conducted through back courts to his inn.'|' 
As he stepped from his carriage and looked 
upon the great mass of people, shouting their 
encouragements and whispering their warnings, 


I .. 


his heart swelled within him, and he cried, 
" God will be upon my side." It was no longer 
his cause alone, but the cause of the people; 
and he felt the voice of the people to be the 
voice of God. Upon Luther's disappearance 
within the Wartburg, on his return from 
Worms, the public agitation was so great that 
one wrote to the Archbishop of Mainz : " The 
people are so much excited about it that I fear 
we shall scarce escape with our lives, if we do 
not everywhere seek him with lanterns and 
call him back again." " Is he yet alive or 
have they assassinated him } " write&-Albrecht 
Diirer, in his diary, in Nuremberg, well ex- 
pressing the popular anxiety. " If dead, then 
he has suffered for the sake of Christian 
truth and because he has punished the unchris- 
tian papacy. O God, if Luther is dead, who 
will henceforth so clearly proclaim to us the 
gospel t " 

So it had been when the pope's bull, excom- 
municating him, came into Germany. We read 
that Cardinal Aleander, who brought the bull, 
was amazed at the attitude of the people. The 
papal authority had become so completely 
weakened that the anathema and interdict 
were received in Germany with shouts of 
laughter. Miltitz, who came before Alean- 



der, confessed that he would not have dared 
to take Luther away with him to Rome, even 
if he had had an army of twenty-five thousand 
men. Aleander found the streets placarded 
with satirical ballads and pictures, directed 
against Italy and the pope, and himself the 
object of scorn, ridicule, street badinage, and 
threats. When the bull was posted in the 
towns, which the magistrates often refused to 
have done at all, it was immediately torn down 
and destroyed by the people. When Eck en- 
deavored to promulgate the bull at Leipzig, the 
students seized and insulted him, and he fled 
for his life to Erfurt ; but here, too, the stu- 
dents fell upon him, laid hold of the bull, and 
threw it into the river, crying, " It is a bubble : 
let it swim." When Luther himself burnt the 
bull at Wittenberg, it was the students who 
prepared the funeral pile, one of the magis- 
trates of the town lighted it, and the bull was 
consumed, we read, amid the acclamations of 
the people. Several hundred students — the ; 
students were Iflways on Luther's side — re- ■ 
mained at the fire, feeding the flames with < 
papal writings. 

The Reformation was essentially a popular 
movement. The common people were its au- 
thors and finishers. The princes were glad 


enough to catch so much of its wind as might 
help them free themselves from the humiliating 
temporal lordship of the pope ; but their in- 
terest in the religious part of it, and especially 
in the rationalizing and liberalizing part of it, 
was usually slight enough, when not indeed 
negative and obstructive. This is notably true 
of England, through the whole period of Tudors 
and of Stuarts : it is only something less so of 
Europe almost altogether. The reason why 
Wiclif, in his time, enjoyed some measure of 
royal protection was not any royal enthusiasm 
for his more rational doctrine, but his potent 
arguments that the king might refuse to pay 
the irksome yearly tribute to Rome. The 
reason why Charles did not make an end, of 
Luther, as he might easily have done, was that 
he knew that the revolt in Germany was a 
good sword to keep hanging over the head of 
the pope. Nowhere real religious motives and 
disinterestedness.* The noble exceptions will 

* " One is tempted to qiecalate «s to wliat might have happened, had 
Charles eq;xHised the reforming caose. His rererenoe for the pope's person 
is suffidently seen in the sack of Rome and the captivity of Clement ; 
the traditions of his office might have led him to tread in the steps of the 
Henrys and the Frederidcs, into which even the timid Lewis IV. and the 
unstable Sigismund had sometimes ventored; the awakening zeal of the 
German people, exaq)erated by the exactions of the Romish court, would 
have strengthened his hands and enabled him, while moderating the excesses 
of change, to fix his throne on the deep foundations of national love. It 



occur to everybody. The support which 
Luther himself received from the Saxon 
princes must never be forgotten. Yet even 
their interest was as much political as relig- 
ious ; although, in their case, this, perhaps, is 
not to be said derogatorily. 

Almost all of the leading reformers were 
men of humble origin, men whose fathers did 
not much outrank worthy Hans Luther of 
Mansfeld. "My father,'* said Latimer, "was 
a yeoman, and had no lands of his own, only 
he had a farm of three or four pounds by the 
year at the uttermost, and hereupon he tilled 
so much as kept half a dozen men." Cranmer's 
father is likewise described as "a yeoman."; 
Zwingli's father was a shepherd. Melanchthon's 
parents were simple village people "in easy 
circumstances " ; Reuchlin was Melanchthon's 
uncle. Knox's family was apparently of about 
the same sort as Melanchthon's. Calvin's father 
was Procureur-Fiscal of the district of Noyon, 
and secretary of the diocese, — a man of ability, 
distinguished by success in his profession, and 
the favor and friendship of the influential 
families of the neighborhood. Calvin came 
nearer being born into an aristocratic atmos- 

may well be doubted — Englishmen, at least, have reason for the doubt — 
whether the Reformation would not have lost as much as it could have 
gained by being entangled in the meshes of royal patronage." — Bryce. 


phere than any of his compeers of the Reforma- 
tion, was even adopted to some extent by a 
certain noble family of the neighborhood, and 
pursued his studies in conjunction with those 
of the young members of this family. His 
tender bringing up was very unlike the rough 
schooling of the boy Luther, sometimes lashed 
fifteen times in the course of a single morning, 
by the Mansfeld schoolmaster, for not k nowing 
what had never been taught him. 

None of the great reformers was, by taste and 
temperament and training, as well as by doctrine, 
more a man of the people than Luther himself. 
His kindly nature and broad human sympathies, 
his own restiveness under authority, his impa- 
tience with dignities and punctilio, his uncon- 
cealed sense of superiority, on their own ground, 
to the princes and potentates with whom he 
had to do, his large and varied experience with 
all sorts and conditions of men, and especially 
with the sound, shrewd, serious and practical 
common people, his rough and sturdy common 
sense, — all this had as much to do as his theory 
of the universal priesthood of the faithful in 
making him a democrat. He was proud and 
strong, at the critical junctures of his life, in 
seeing that he was safe in the hearts of the peo- 
ple, whatever bans might come from Rome and 


from the courts. He threw off the cowl of the 
monk, and assumed the habit of the citizen ; 
and for this the people loved him as much as 
because he became a husband and a father, 
sanctifying the conception of marriage and the 
home, — as Rome, by its doctrine of the supe- 
rior holiness of celibacy, had profaned it. He 
was proud to know himself rooted in the com- 
monalty. He was proud of his honest, peasant 
father and mother, loved to welcome them to 
his table and the circle of his learned friends, 
embalmed their names, Hans and Gretchen, in 
the marriage service which he compiled for 
the Reformed Church, where they stand to this 
day as a memorial of his honor and affection. 
'* I am a peasant's son," he used to say, with 
the same pride with which Chatham exclaimed 
to the nobles of the Cabinet, " It is the people 
who have sent me here." No peasant in Wit- 
tenberg or in all Germany who could not freely 
approach him, or who did not feel in his honor 
and greatness that he was honored, too. His 
very buffoonery made him dearer to the people, 
while bearing further witness to his democratic 
nature, as in the case of our own Lincoln, 
whose portrait altogether, as Emerson paints 
it, would well serve for Luther: "The great 
style of hero, which draws equally all classes, 


all the extremes of society, till we say the very 
dogs believe in him, — a man who was at home 
and welcome with the humblest, and with a 
spirit and a practical vein in the times of terror 
that commanded the admiration of the wisest." 
The element of humor in Luther, so overmas- 
tering — precisely as in the case of Lincoln — 
as to throw him constantly to the very limits, 
and .within the limits, of the vulgar, needs to 
be considered carefully, in order not to do 
him great injustice. "With all his robustness 
and earnestness," says a discriminating writer, 
"Luther's mind had a keen sense of humor, 
which even the most serious passages of his 
life could excite. The ludicrous side of any 
argument never escaped him, and he loved to 
give to grave discussions a quaint and comical 
turn. No theme was so grave, no dignity so 
high, no issue so momentous, that his satirical 
taste hesitated to deal with it. His friends 
were often shocked, his enemies amazed, at 
the style of his rejoinders. He almost in- 
vented for Germany a new vocabulary of gro- 
tesque and sarcastic terms. To many now, 
this is the most repulsive side of the re- 
former's character and spirit.* His most seri- 

*The following passage from Luther's pamphlet in reply to King Henry 
VIII. of England, who engaged in theological controversy with him, well 



ous writings seem at times profaned by their 
buffoonery. What is so charming and fresh in 
the extravagances and whims of the Table-Talk 
is far from agreeable in the discussion of themes 
which the reverence of ages should have hal- 
lowed. This tendency of Luther has given 
ample materials to his Catholic defamers to hold 
him up to contempt and scorn. His garbled 

illastrates the coarse, abusive, and reckless style in which he frequently 
wrote. It serves, too, to show how the whole tone of controversy has 
changed in these centuries, — for Luther was only somewhat more violent 
than a hundred of his contemporaries ; and it especially serves to illustrate 
the main point which we are here considering, — how slight respect he had 
for royalties and dignities. Whether it was King Henry of England or 
Hans Wurst of Wittenberg, with whom he was dealing, was all one to him. 
"The Lord Henry, not by the grace of God, King of England, has 
written in Latin against my treatise. There are some who believe that this 
pamphlet of the king^s did not emanate from the king's own pen ; but 
whether Henry wrote or Hal, or the devil in hell, is nothing to the point. 
He who lies is a liar. My own notion about the matter is that Henry gave 
out an ell or two of coarse cloth, and that then this pituitous Thomist Lee, 
the follower of the Thomist herd, who in his presumption wrote against 
Erasmus, took scissors and made a cope of it. If a king of England spits 
his impudent lies in my face, I have a right in my turn to throw them back 
down his own throat. If he blasphemes my sacred doctrines, if he casts his 
filth at the throne of my monarch, my Christ, he need not be astonished at 
my defiling in like manner his royal diadem, and proclaimmg him, king of 
England though he be, a liar and a rascal. . . . He thought to himself, 
Luther is so hunted about he will have no opportunity of replying to me : 
I need not fear to throw anything that comes first to hand in the poor monk's 
path. Ah I ah I my worthy Henry I you've reckoned without your host in 
this matter : you've had your say, and I'll have mine. You shall have truths 
that won't amuse you at all. I'll make you smart for your tricks. This ex- 
cellent Henry accuses me of having written against the pope out of personal 
hatred and ill-will ; of being snarlish and quarrelsome, backbiting, proud, 
and so conceited that I think myself the only man of sense in the world. I 
ask you, worthy Hal, what has my being conceited, snappish, and crosa- 
grained, supposing \ am so, to do with the question? Is the papacy fre^ 



writings are made to attest a low and sneering 
hatred of all holy things, and the cunning Jesuit 
is able to show how a blackguard was mistaken 
for a reformer. But the more candid critic, 
while he allows that the humor of Luther was 
not always of the most dignified sort, and that 
his style was lacking in refinement, will see in 
it the proof of a genial soul." 

His good nature and pleasantry were invet- 

from blame, because I am open to it ? Is the king of England a wise man, 
because I suppose him to be a fool ? Answer me that. . . . What most sur- 
prises me is not the ignorance of this Hal of England, not that he under- 
stands less about faith and works than a log of wood, but that the devil 
should trouble himself to make use of this man against me. King Henry 
justifies the proverb, * Kings and princes are fools.' I shall say very little 
more about him at present ; for I have the Bible to translate, and other im- 
portant matters to attend to. On some future occasion, God willing, when I 
shall be more at leisure, I will reply at greater length to this royal driveler 
of lies and poison. ... I imagine that he set about his book by way of pen- 
ance ; for his conscience is ever smiting him for having stolen the crown of 
England, having made way for himself by murderi«g the last scion of the 
royal line. . . . Hal and the pope have exactly the same legitimacy : the pope 
stole his tiara, as the king his crown ; and therefore it is that they are as 
thick together as two mules in harness." 

The thought of the king's rage on finding himself addressed in this 
manner evidently amuses and stimulates Luther as he writes. And this 
passage by no means shows the worst that he could do in this line,— is quite 
outdone by some of his diatribes against " the papal sow," " the pope- 
ass," and "the monk calf." " Nature," says Canon Mozley, "gives horns 
to bulls and hoofs to horses : to Luther, she gave a tongue. ... As a con- 
troversialist, he was literally and wholly without decorum, conscience, taste, or 
fear. He did not know what it was to hesitate, to waver, upon an epithet or 
a gibe. There is no appearance in his style of his ever having once, in the 
whole of his controversial career, said to himself, Shall I say this or not ? 
He said whatever he liked. He consulted strength alone. He was un- 
scrupulously gross and foul-mouthed in his more solid vituperation : in his 
lighter banter there was that extremity of insolence which we notice in the 



erate. How pleasant is the picture of those 
evening gatherings at the Black Eagle, where 
for fifteen years he was wont to meet his more 
intimate friends and, on the oaken benches, 
over the can of ale, discuss the creeds, politics 
and poetry, the pope, the devil and the Turk, 
man, woman, marriage and home, and every- 
thing in heaven and on earth and under the 

derision of a sharp and low crowd at a hustings, choosing exactly, in their 
battery upon an obnoxious candidate, the terms and the style the most 
ofiFensive to his self-respect." 

Luther himself was perfectly conscious, in his quiet and reflective times, 
of this extravagance and violence in himself; and the reason which he gives 
for it is the true one. " I was bom," he says, " to meet parties and demons 
hand to hand on the field of battle : therefore, my writings are full of war 
and tempest. I am the rough pioneer who has to prepare the ways and level 
the road. The master of arts, Philip [Melanchthon], advances calmly and 
gently ; he cultivates and he plants ; he sows and he waters joyfully according 
to the gifts which God has given him." This is just the truth of the matter. 
Luther was the rough pioneer, who had to prepare the way and level the 
road. Had he undertaken to do his work with a Damascus blade, instead 
of with axe and hammer, the work would not have been done at all. As one 
has said, he had no time to stop mouse-holes with cheese. " God gave the 
world at this time," said Melanchthon, using the words of Erasmus, ** when 
grievous plagues and ills had gained the upper hand, a sharp and severe 
doctor." "Not even a religious revolution," says Heine, "can be made 
with orange blossom." It is easy for us, in the leisure of the afternoon, to 
criticise the Titan ; but it is very doubtful whether everything we criticise 
did not serve a real and important end, and whether, considering the time 
and the task, the very things we most incline to count limitations were not 
inextricably bound up with what made him strong and triumphant. " Praise 
to Luther ! " says Heine, " eternal praise to the dear man whom we have to 
thank for the deliverance of our most precious possessions, and on whose 
benefits our life still depends ! It little becomes us to complain of the nar- 
rowness of his views. The dwarf standing on the shoulders of the giant 
can indeed see farther than his supporter, especially if he puts on spectacles ; 
but to such a lofty survey is wanting the elevated feeling, the giant heart, to 
which we cannot lay daim. Still less does it beqome us to pronounce an 


earth! His satire and merriment came out 
especially in his dealings with the church au- 
thorities, and here he appealed especially to 
the popular heart. On the Sunday morning 
after the arrival of the papal embassy in Wit- 
tenberg, in 1534, he sent early for his barber. 
" How comes it, Doctor," asked the man, " that 
you desire to be shaved so early.?" Luther 
replied, " I am called to meet the ambassador 
of the holy father, the pope: hence, I must 
prepare and adorn myself to appear before him 
as if I were young; for then the legate will 
think, * The deuce ! if Luther in his youth has 
done us so much mischief, what may he not 

austere judgment on his failings : these failings have profited us more than 
the virtues of a thousand others. Neither the subtilty of Erasmus nor the 
benignity of Melanchthon would ever have brought us so far as the divine 
brutality of Brother Martin." 

It is to be seriously deplored, however, — disposed as we may be to 
excuse the vulgar tirades against Henry and the pope, the "jackass " which 
he bestowed on Pope Adrian, the " confounded lice " which he stuck to the 
Capuchins, the " peevish milk-sops " with which he mollified the cardinals, 
and the " detestable backbiters '* which he hurled at Tetzel and his crew, — 
that Luther should have used the terms which he did use in controversy with 
his fellow-reformers, and especially with such men as Zwingli and Erasmus. 
Erasmus is " the vilest miscreant that ever disgraced the earth," the " enemy 
to true religion," " Christ's most bitter enemy," the " complete image of 
Epicurus," a "Momus," a "venomous serpent," an ** accursed wretch." 
** Whenever I pray, I pray for a curse upon Erasmus." Carlstadt and 
Erasmus are lumped together as " mere hollow nuts, which foul the mouth." 
ZwingU is an "Uliterate rustic," a "mere xealot," "without logic" "I 
wish from my heart Zwingli could be saved, but I fear the contrary." 
Everywhere, this small respect and generally violent abuse for his adversa- 
ries. Yet this is never bom of any personal jealousy or envy. There was 
nothing of these in Luther's make-up. " Carlstadt wanted to be the great 


do hereafter?'" As he rode to the meeting, 
accompanied by his friend Bugenhagen, he 
remarked laughingly, "Behold, here is the 
German pope and his cardinal Pommeranus ! " 
At the time of the indulgence troubles, TetzeL 
taunted Luther with the offer of the trial of 
fire and water. " Your cries seem to me," 
answered Luther, "but empty braying. In- 
stead of water, I commend to you the juice of 
the vine; and, in place of fire, inhale, my 
friend, the odor of good roast goose; and tell 
all your inquisitors, all your eaters of hot iron 
and splitters of rock, that I, Martin Luther, 
live at Wittenberg, and that they will find at 

man ; and truly I wotild ^llingly have left him the honor, so far as it had 
not been against God." This is wholly sincere. If Luther is arrogant, it 
is always the arrogance of the cause which he incarnates, and from which he 
cannot dissociate himself in thought. His deference and kmdlmess to his 
fellow-workers at Wittenberg and to all like-minded men are beautiful ; and 
his friendship with Melanchthon is one of the notable friendships of time, 
like the friendship of David and Jonathan, of Lessing and Moses Mendels- 
sohn, of Washington and Lafayette, of Goethe and Schiller, and of Carlyle 
and Emerson. " Luther," said Melanchthon, " is too great, too wonderful 
for me to depict in words. If there be a man on earth I love with my 
whole heart, that man is Luther. One is an interpreter, one a logician, an- 
other an orator, affluent and beautiful in speech, but Luther is all in all ; 
whatever he writes, whatever he utters, pierces to the soul, fixes itself like 
arrows in the heart, — he is a miracle among men." Equally warm are 
Luther's words of Melanchthon. Not since David spoke over the body 
of Jonathan have words of more simple and touching pathos been uttered 
than those of Melanchthon's lament for Luther : '* As when two travellers 
are journeying one and the same way, and, after they have gone a long 
while together, one of them should fall down dead and the other lament, so 
do I bewail my Luther. I had alwajrs believed that I should be the first to 
leave this world, — and now I must survive him 1 " 


my house an open door, a table spread, good 
cheer, and a hearty welcome.*' A man once 
came from the Low Countries to dispute with 
him about all sorts of things. He remarks, 
" When I saw what a poor, ignorant creature 
he was, I said to him, * Hadn't we better dis- 
pute over a can or two of beer } ' " Luther 
was the farthest remove possible fro m the 
'Puritan. His conviviality and general free 
i and easy tone commended him all the more to 
the German people, though I cannot help 
feeling that it may have contributed its share 
toward that moral laxity which he had such 
occasion to deplore in a thousand places where 
the reformed doctrine and discipline went. We 
cannot well help liking his famous couplet : — 

" Who laves not woman^ wine and song^ 
Remains a fool his whole life long.** 

It serves to emphasize the warm human nature 
of the man, and draws us the closer to him. 
Yet we somehow feel that even this is not just 
the thing that comes best from a great relig- 
ious reformer ; and, when we hear him exclaim- 
ing further, "We are all jolly fellows, we Ger- 
mans : we eat and drink and sing, and break 
our glasses, and lose, at one sitting, a hun- 
dred or a thousand florins," the Puritan in us 



comes down with sharp protest. Calvin and 
Milton, we are sure, are better than this. 

But, if such words were not calculated to help 
the cause of religion, they did help Luther's 
personal popularity among the masses of the 
German people. They expressed with hearty 
honesty and gusto a very fundamental German 
feeling. Altogether, as has been well said, 
Luther, while not the absolute originator of the 
German character, is yet its striking and pro- 
phetic representative, the personifier of the na- 
tion. Heine says : " He was not only the greatest 
but the most German man of our history. In 
his character, all the faults and all the virtues of 
the Germans are combined on the largest scale ; 
he represents in his own personality the won- 
derful German land." It was his pride that he 
was a German, and there was no other pride 
which he expressed so strongly or so often ; 
and this, flattering their own pride as it did, 
served pre-eminently to make him the idol of 
the German people. *' I was born for the good 
of my dear Germans," he said, "and I will 
never cease to serve them." The Germans 
were " more honest, right, and true " than all 
other people; the German language was "su- 
perior to all others." For popular effect, what 
could be conceived so sublime as his bursting 

1 2d Martin LutHer 

into German amid the Latinities of the Diet of 
Worms, and his final exclamation in the tongue 
of the people : " Hier stehe ich, Ich kann nicht 
anders, Gott helfe mir*' ? 

Luther, like all scholars of the time, wrote 
fluently in Latin ; but, unlike most, he wrote 
most gladly in the tongue of the people. It is 
worthy of remark that, while the names of so 
many luminaries of the time have come down 
to us, and are remembered in some classic 
form, — Gerhard turned into Erasmus, Heuss- 
gen into Ecolampadius, and Schwarzerd into 
Melanchthon, — this man's name brooked no 
Latinizing or Hellenizing process ; always plain 
Martin Luther, just as Hans and Gretchen gave 
it to him there in Eisleben. It is not improper 
to call Luther the father of the modern German 
language. " He created the German language," 
says Heine.* His address " To the Christian 

* " How Luther succeeded in creating the language into which he trans- 
lated the Bible remains a mystery to me even to this hour. The old 
Swabian dialect had totally disappeared, along with the chivalrous poetry 
of the Hohenstaufen imperial era. The old Saxon dialect, so-called Low 
German, was in use throughout only a portion of Northern Germany ; and, 
despite all efforts that have been made, it has never been found possible to 
adapt it to literary purposes. . Modem Saxon never was a dialect of the 
Germans, as little was it so as Silesian, — the former, like the latter, having 
a strong Slavonian admkture. I, therefore, frankly confess that I know 
not what was the origin of the language we find in Luther's Bible. But 
this I know, that, through his Bible, which the new-born press, the black 
art, scattered by thousands of copies among the people, the Lutheran lan- 
guage spread in a few years over the whole of Germany, and was raised to 


Nobility of the German Nation " is the earliest 
masterpiece of German prose; and never was 
a book so influential in shaping a language 
and a literature as Luther's translation of the 
Bible. Never was a man so fitted for such a 
task, combining as he did with so great learn- 
ing such rare and sympathetic understanding 
of the common mind, and such genuine and 
high respect for the popular judgment and 
intelligence. The manuscript which still sur- 
vives bears witness, by its corrections and re- 
corrections, to the infinite pains he took with 
his work, and how high a degree of impor- 
tance he attached to it. We read that, when 
engaged in translating the descriptions of the 
slaughter of beasts for sacrifice, he got a 
butcher to kill some sheep for him, that he 
might learn what every part of a sheep was 

the rank of a written tongue. This written tongue holds its place to this 
day in Germany, and gives to that pohtically and religiously dismembered 
nation (1833) a literary unity. Such an inestimable gain may well make 
amends to us for any loss in the later development of the language of that 
internal expressiveness we are accustomed to find in languages having their 
origin in a single dialect. There is no want, however, of such expressive- 
ness in the language of Luther's Bible, and this old book is a perennial 
source of rejuvenescence for our tongue. £very expression and every 
idiom to be found in Luther's Bible is essentially German ; an author may 
unhesitatingly employ it ; and, as this book is in the hands of the poorest 
classes, they have no need of any special learned instruction to enable them 
to express themselves in a literary style. This circumstance will, when the 
political revolution takes place, result in strange phenomena. Liberty will 
everywhere be able to speak, and its speech will be Biblical." — Hei$u» 


called ; and so of much besides. " I made it 
my effort to avoid Hebraisms," he said. " The 
wise ones, who affect greater knowledge than 
myself on the subject, take me to task for a 
word here and there. Did they attempt the 
labor I have accomplished, I would tind a hun- 
dred blunders in them for my one." "No fine, 
courtly words," he said to Spalatin. **This 
book can only be explained in a simple, popular 
style. It must be understood by the mother in 
the house, by the children in the streets, and 
by the common man in the market." The 
terms of court and palace he could not use, he 

The translation of the Bible, everywhere a 
concomitant of the Reformation, is the noblest 
witness to the democracy of Protestantism. It 
proved the belief in the popular appeal. This 
confidence in the popular appeal, the great re- 
spect for it, and the deep sense of its impor- 
tance, appear always in Luther. Before leaving 
Wittenberg for Worms, when he half-believed 
that he was going to his death, he devised with 
his friend Lucas Cranach, the artist, what he 
[ called **a good book for the laity," — a series 
/ of woodcuts depicting contrasts between Christ 
/ and the pope, with explanations in pithy Ger- 
^ man : Christ washing the disciples' feet on one 



page, the pope holding out his toe to be kissed \ 
oiP the ~otTief;' Christ bearing his cross, the) 
pope carried in state through Rome on men's 
sHQuI^ersT CHfist "driving money-changers out 
of the temple, the pope "selling indulgences, 
with piles of money before him ; and so on. ' 

Another constant and sublime witness to the 
democracy of Protestantism has been its faith 
in popular education and its devotion to it. 
And here, too, Luther took the lead. " Luther," 
says a German writer, "was not only the re- 
newer of the religious life of the German peo- 
ple, but he was also the father and creator of 
its common schools, that gigantic tree whose 
branches have spread over all Germany, and it 
may fairly be said over all Protestantism, scat- 
tering blessings over all classes of society, to 
the glory of God and the welfare of mankind." 
If the Reformation is to succeed, Luther said, 
the young must be educated. He published an 
address in 1524, *'To the Councillors of all the 
Cities in Germany, to establish and maintain 
Christian Schools." This had reference to sec- 
ondary or Latin schools. He addressed him- 
self with equal zeal to the question of uni- 
versity education and university reform. He 
advocated the thorough education of women. 
This flowed directly from the Protestant doc- 




\ trine, — a soul is a soul now, and even Christian 
women are priests. He insisted that common 
schools should be established everywhere, and 
that education be compulsory. He effected an 
utter revolution in school administration. **The 
schoolmasters in my day," he said, speaking of 
his boyhood, " were tyrants and executioners ; 
the schools were jails and hells ; and, in spite 
of fear and misery, floggings and tremblings, 
nothing was learned. The young people were 
treated altogether too severely, so that they 
might well have been called martyrs. Time 
was wasted over many useless things, and thus 
many an able mind was ruined." Men should 
discern, he said, "the different dispositions, 
according to which all punishment should be 
administered ; for we ought to punish so that 
the apple go hand in hand with the rod." This 
might well be a sentence from Roger Ascham's 
Schoolmaster, The history of modern pedagogy 
should begin not with Ascham or Comenius, 
but with Martin Luther.* 

Luther was a great popular preacher. He 
valued the pulpit more than the professor's 

* It was with good reason that the great reformers laid stress on edu- 
cation, for the Reformation was begun and carried on so completely by 
scholars that it has been with much justice called an academic movement. 
Wiclii and Huss also, the great "reformers before the Reformation," 
were celebrated university professors. 



chair ; and it was in the pulpit, addressing the 
multitude, that he was most powerful. He 
loved to preach. For years, he preached three 
times in the week. He would preach when 
he was sick, and never with more power than 
then. He deeply felt the responsibility of the 
office. His knees often trembled beneath him 
as he mounted the pulpit, but not for fear of 
men. " What do I care that men say I don't 
know how to preach t My only fear is that, 
before God, I shall pass for not having worth- 
ily spoken of his great majesty and his royal 
works." The sermons are often coarse enough, 
f ull of p ersonaTities and sarcasm, but always i 
with a solemn and awful background, and sur- 
charged with earnestness. His first and con- 
stant consideration is the condition and the 
needs of the common people. He aims at ab- 
solute simplicity, and scathingly rebukes all 
pulpit pedantry. " I would not have preachers j 
in their sermons use Hebrew, Greek, or for- \ 
eign words; for, in the church, we ought to 
speak, as we use to do at home, the plain 
mother-tongue which every one is acquainted 
^^itb." "When they come to me, to Melanch- 
thon, to Dr. Pomer, etc., let them show their 
cunning, how learned they be : .they shall be 
well put to their trumps. Bqt to sprinkle out 

1 26 ^^R ^^^ L UTHER 

Hebrew, Greek and Latin in their public ser- 
mons savors merely of show, according with 
neither time nor place." " We ought to direct 
ourselves in preaching," he said, "according to 
the condition of the hearers ; but most preach- 
ers commonly fail herein: they preach that 
which little edifies the poor, simple people. 
Christ talks of tilling ground, of mustard-seed, 
etc. ; he used altogether homely and simple 
similitudes." " When I preach," he says again, 
^^ I sink myself deep down.'* I regard neither 
Doctors nor Magistrates, of whom are here in 
this church above forty ; but I have an eye to 
the multitude of young people, children and 
servants, of whom are more than two thou- 

J All this, it will be clearly seen, describes the 

J democrat ; and democrat, precisely, Luther was. 

( Never was a man so splendidly endowed as he 
with every element to make a great popular 

* leader. Had he been an unscrupulous man, he 
might have been the prince of demagogues. 
He was a conscientious man of the people ; and 

* The phrase reminds us of those lines of Lowell's : — 

" I love society, 
Nor seldom find the best with simple souls 
Unswerved by culture from their native bent, 
The ground we meet on being primal man 
And nearer the tUep doses o/our ItoesJ'* 



he labored faithfully, through evil report and 
good report, with such amount of knowledge 
and insight as he had, for what he sincerely 
believed ta be for the genuine good of the 
people and for true liberty. It has often been 
pointed out, and justly, that it has not been the 
Protestant doctrine in its Lutheran form which 
has carried liberty to the nations, and built 
republics, but in its Calvinist form. Calvinism 
became the religion of the Huguenots in 
France, of the Covenanters in Scotland, of the 
Puritans in England, and the religion of New 
England and America. Where Lutheranism 
became instituted, there nations have not come 
to their political majority, but have remained 
resigned to absolutism or paternalism. Ban- 
croft urges this in his well-known passage upon 
the Calvinism of the Puritans ; and the reason 
which he intimates is the true one. "Both 
Luther and Calvin," he says, " brought the in- 
dividual into immediate relation with God; but 
Calvin, under a militant form of doctrine, 
brought him into immediate dependence on 
God. . . . Luther spared the altar, and hesitated 
to deny totally the real presence : Calvin, with 
superior dialectics, accepted as a commemora- 
tion and a seal the rites which the Catholics 
revered as a sacrifice. Luther favored magnifi- 

128 ^^R TIl^ L UTHER 

cence in public worship, as an aid to devotion : 
Calvin, the guide of republics, avoided in his 
churches all appeals to the senses, as a peril to 
pure religion. . . . Luther permitted the cross 
and the taper, pictures and images, as things 
of indifference: Calvin demanded a spiritual 
worship in its utmost purity. Luther, not 
from his own choice, but from the overruling 
necessities of his position, left the organization 
of the Church to princes and governments : 
Calvin reformed doctrine, ritual, and practice, 
and, by establishing ruling elders in each 
church and an elective synod, he secured to 
his polity a representative character, which 
combined authority with popular rights. Both 
Luther and Calvin insisted that for each one 
there can be no other priest than himself ; and, 
as a consequence, both agreed in the parity of 
the clergy. Both were of one mind that, should 
pious laymen choose one of their number to be 
their minister, * the man so chosen would be as 
truly a priest as if all the bishops in the world 
had consecrated him.' " * 

* With reference to doctrines of " succession," Luther speaks as follows: 
" Where God*s word is purely taught there is the upright and true Church ; 
for the true Church is supported by the Holy Ghost, not by succession of 
inheritance. It does not follow, though St. Peter had been bishop at 
Rome, and at the same time Christian communion had been at Rome, that 
therefore the pope and the Romish Church are true ; for, if that should be of 
▼alue or conclusive, then they must needs confess that Caii^phs^, Annu vid 



The relinquishment of everything sacramen- 
tarian and ritualistic, the more direct throw- 
ing of the soul on God, the nakedness in which 
it set all souls in the presence of God, — this it 
was in Calvinism which promoted those prin- 
ciples of equality which must needs eventuate 
in the republic. But the man Calvin was by 
no means so truly a democrat as was Luther ; 
while the consistorial or . Presbyterian polity 
which he himself established in Geneva, and 
which realized his ideal, was not a demo- 
cratic polity at all, but an aristocratic polity. 
Luther, in nothing a logical practitioner like 
Calvin, never stickling to realize ideals, but 
always dealing roughly and politically, cutting 
his garment according to his cloth, really held 
a theory of the Christian man and of the 
Church which, put into logical practice, would 
have given Congregationalism. He adopted 
the mixture of the episcopate* and the con- 
sistory which has continued in the Lutheran 

the Sadducees were also the true Church ; for they boasted that they were 
descended from Aaron." And of the Church councils he speaks thus: 
"Ah, Lord Godl what are councils and conventions but grasping and 
vanity, wherein men dispute about titles, honors, precedence and other fop- 
peries? Let us consider what has been done by these councils in three 
hundred years : nothing but what concerns externals and ceremonies ; noth- 
ing at all touching true divine doctrine, the upright worship of God, or 
faith." " God's worship," he said, " consists in the plain, simple truth." 

*I say episcopate, of course, under correction. The general su^trin- 
tendenit in the Lutheran Church perform much the same office and have 



Church simply for political reasons, with refer- 
ence to the particular conditions of the time ; 
but the very pure congregational theory pro- 
posed by Francis Lambert was confessedly 
much nearer his ideal. He felt that it was 
a plan which might be adopted at a later stage 
of the Reformation ; but the times and circum- 
stances were not ripe for it, to his thinking, in 
1527, even for Hesse alone. And, to his think- 
ing, they got no riper for it at any time during 
the rest of his life. Indeed, during those later 
years, he grew steadily more conservative, un- 
willing to initiate any bold new departure, some- 
what anxious as to whither the principles which 
he had let loose might hurry men. The Peas- 
ants* War and Carlstadt's iconoclasm troubled 
and alarmed him, and he evidently felt that it 
was time to take in sail and go slowly, com- 
manding content with the distance already 
achieved until some calm should give a chance 
for a clear new reckoning. So it has been of 
the later years of a hundred great reformers, 
smaller only than Luther. So it was not of 
our English Wiclif, Luther's great forerunner, 
whose last days were his most progressive and 
prophetic days. In a word, Luther had finished 

substantially the same standing as the bishops in the Methodist Episcopal 
Church of America. Neither constitutes another ordtr in the ministry, but 
both are simply ^rimi inUr partt, • 



the work which it was given him to do. He 
had fought a good fight, and had kept his faith. 
His vision had extended farther beyond the 
vision of his age than that of almost any man 
who ever lived ; he had done more than almost 
any other to move the world forward. But he 
had reached the limits of his vision ; and the 
next distinct and radical movement forward was 
to be the work of other men, in another age. 


And here comes one and another, and says 
that Luther, whom we call democrat and man 
of the people, was not this at all. Rather, 
says this one, in hot and angry pamphlet, a 
friend of despotism and oppression, a fiend 
against humanity and liberty, the lackey of 
princes and courts. Once, indeed, we are told, 
when yet young and an obscure monk, poor 
and "hungry," this same Luther said that the 
people had a right to rebel against the dominat- 
ing institutions, when they were iniquitous ; but, 
having risen in the world, having gotten on and 
up, having become a "high-toned gentleman," 
being "well-fed and salaried," he becomes the 
willing servant and tool of the heartless aris- 



tocracy, in whose favor he grew great and fat, 
against the rights and aspirations of the poor. 
Ah, good friend, you have yet a long road to 
travel, to the point whence history is inter- 
preted, and the motives which impel great men. 
You have companied too much with minor 
prophets, and are stuck in sorry categories. 
You will learn that no man gets very far in this 
God's world, that none becomes a great and 
lasting force in it, to whom it is safe to apply 
the categories of "good feed" and "salary," 
with the expectation of explaining anything 
thereby. It is to be advised that you give up 
that hypothesis altogether, and very especially 
that you cease its use many degrees this side of 
men of the size of Martin Luther. Learn, too, 
that " high-tone " becomes a very" low thing and 
invisible, at a very early stage in the course of 
any real man. " Good feed " and " salary " ! 
" The world," said Luther, " is too poor to give 
me satisfaction." What to a man in whose 
mind templed the thought of the Reformation 
were all the beef and bullion of all the Saxon 
Electors, that independence and conviction 
should be bartered for them } Ah, no. Had 
"good feed" and "salary" been an object, 
there was a much shorter cut to them than 
through the fifes of Augsburg and Worms. A 



snug bishopric would have settled all that. 
Bishop Luther were a being of very easy crea- 
tion, and had been well-fed and salaried to a 
degree that poor Dr. Luther of Wittenberg 
and Zeilsdorf farm never dreamed of. Poor, 

say ; for Martin Luther, the miner's son, live( 


and died as poor as he was born, and left hii 
wife a beggar. At the very height of his popu-V 
larity and power, when he was the counsellor 
and director of princes and swayed the destiny 
of Europe, he was often so pitifully poor that he 
was at loss how to supply the absolute necessi- 
ties of life. This was owing in part, very truly, 
to his own improvidence and careless use of the 
money which he had ; but it was chiefly because 
he did not have much money at all. All that 
he did have was always freely divided with the 
alms-seekers, who forever beset him, drawn by 
his notorious generosity. His manner of life 
was to the end as simple as that of his peasant 
father in Mansfeld. " The unpretending plain- 
ness of his whole way of living," says no hot 
panegyrist, writing of the things which endeared 
him to the people, "always bordering on actual 
poverty and want, but borne with the most 
cheerful indifference, was a constant memento 
in his favor. The leader of the age and the 
adviser of princes, affecting no station and 



courting no great men, was externally one of 
the common crowd, and the plainest of it." 

Dismissing, then, these despicable categories 
of "high-tone," "good feed," and "salary," 
which accuse whoever uses them, let us con- 
sider seriously, nothing extenuating and set- 
ting down naught in malice, Luther's part 
with reference to this Peasants' War ; for it is 
with reference to his part in this that we are 
told he proved himself the lackey of princes 
and traitor to humanity. 

Be it premised — for obtuseness seems to 
make such premises still necessary — that 1525 
was two centuries and a half before 1776, and a 
yet longer time before 1789, and that a man's 
treason to humanity in 1525 is not to be meas- 
ured by his deviation from conceptions of gov- 
ernment and popular rights which first found 
expression in the grand generalities, still pro- 
phetic, of the American and French Revolu- 
tions. The Peasants' War anticipated in almost 
every feature the French Revolution. The 
attitude of Luther in the one was not essen- 
tially unlike — and this in 1525 — the attitude, 
in the other, of Lafayette. 

As has been many times remarked, the Ger- 
man Reformation is made up of three or four 
great movements, in some sort separate, and 




yet so related and interdependent that one can 
never be considered carefully without studying 
the others. The reformation of religion and 
the revolt from Rome are indissolubly joined 
to the new movement in the universities and 
in general learning, and all to the sudden 
strong assertion of a genuine national spirit, as 
well as to the development, in all directions, of 
democratic tendencies opposed to the old feudal 
and aristocratic organization of society. When 
Luther spoke his first bold word against the 
pope, he immediately raised to a white heat 
every enthusiasm and every noble aspiration 
in Germany. Ulrich von Hutten and the 
humanists recognized him as their leader ; 
Franz von Sickingen and the free knights 
hailed him as their ally ; and hope sprang up 
in the hearts of the poor down-trodden peasants 
that he might be the Messiah who should help 
them free themselves from the unbearable 
miseries of their lot. The denial of an arbi- 
trary authority in one thing was the presage of 
its denial in another ; and if reason was to rule 
in religion and the Church, so should it rule 
in society and government. After the Leipzig 
disputation, it has properly been said, Luther 
found hims^elf not simply a mover in ecclesi- 
astical and doctrinal reform, but the leader of 
the German nation. 



Out of all this seething came the Peasants' 
Insurrection. It would have come, says one, if 
Luther had never been born and Protestantism 
never preached. It was the angry upleaping 
of down-trodden men, who could endure their 

■ miseries no longer. I think not so. Their 
miseries were no greater than those of many 
patient generations before them, nor than the 
miseries of thousands in our own day, who live 
on in resignation. This, rather, is the deeper 
and the real truth. Man never rises into sin- 
cere and original relations with God, never 
has a new birth in religion, without also having 
a genuine revival of enthusiasm for humanity 

' and a larger and loftier social ideal. Along 
with a nobler theology comes always and in- 
evitably, as a very part of itself, a nobler con- 
ception of the commonwealth. The Mosaic 
monotheism brings the Mosaic theocracy ; and 
he has not yet come near to the heart of 
Christ, who has not found that he is not more 
inspired by the consciousness that God is in 
him than by the vision of the kingdom of God 
on the earth. Plato's Republic, Augustine's 
City of God, Bacon's New Atlantis, Utopia, 
Arcadia, Sybaris, Brook Farm, — all these 
record the longings for a better society, which 
straightway seize the man who has been 



moved to nobler speculation and to a new 
and vital consciousness of the grandeur of the 
soul. He poorly studies Calvin's Institutes^ 
who neglects the Genevan Republic ; and the 
sublimity of Puritan piety is never known to 
him who can laugh at Puritan legislation, mis- 
taken and practically mischievous as it so 
often proved. 

When, therefore, Luther's mighty hammer fell 
upon the bell that knelled at once the death of 
priest and pope, and rang in, to an enslaved and 
thirsty nation, the gospel of original relations 
with God once more, — in that sound, and in 
the simplest catch-words of that gospel, wrongs 
and injustice, which had been silently and hope- 
lessly endured before, now appeared ten times 
unjuster, more irrational and intolerable, and 
the mad mob flew to arms. 

** The brute despair of trampled centuries 

Leaped up v^nth one hoarse yell and snapped its bands, 
Groped for its right with horny, callous hands, 

And stared around for God with bloodshot eyes. 
What wonder if those palms were all too hard 

For nice distinctions, — if that maenad throng — 
They whose thick atmosphere no bard 

Had shivered with the lightning of his song, 
Brutes with the memories and desires of men. 

Whose chronicles were writ with iron pen, 
In the crooked shoulder and the forehead low, — 
Set wrong to balance wrong, 
And physicked woe with woe } " 


The more moderate party among the revolu- 
tionists published their program and demands 
in twelve notable articles, at the same time 
declaring that they did not wish for war, and 
asked nothing that was not in accordance with 
the gospel. They raised their voice to God, 
who saved the people of Israel ; and they be- 
lieved that God could save them from their 
powerful oppressors, as he did Israel from the 
hand of Pharaoh. The following were their 
twelve articles : (i) the whole congregation to 
have power to elect their minister, and, if he was 
found unworthy, to dismiss him ; (2) the great 
tithe, Le.y the legal tithe of corn, to be still 
payable for the maintenance of the pastor, and 
what is over to go to support the poor; the 
small tithes to be no longer payable ; (3) serf- 
dom abolished, since Christ has redeemed us 
all by his precious blood ; (4) game, fish, and 
fowl to be free as God created them; (5) the 
rich have appropriated the forests, — this to be 
rearranged ; (6) compulsory service to be abol- 
ished, — wages for work ; (7) peasant service to 
be limited by contract, and work done above 
contract to be paid for ; (8) fair rents ; (9) arbi- 
trary punishment abolished ; (10) the commons 
restored; (11) the right of heriot, ^^., the right 
of the lord to take the vassal's best chattel, to 



be abolished; (12) all these propositions to be 
tested by Scripture, and what cannot stand the 
test to be rejected. 

That which must chiefly impress every liberal 
man to-day, in reading these demands of the 
peasants, is their exceeding moderation. Most 
impartial historians, knowing the times, agree 
that the demands were just ; and most of them 
have since become law in Germany. Luther 
said, addressing the German nobility with ref- 
erence to the articles, *' Some of them contain 
demands so obviously just, that the mere cir- 
cumstance of their requiring to be brought 
forward dishonors you before God and man.** 
His word concerning the article demanding 
free election of their pastors by the congrega- 
tions has been already cited. "Again,** he 
said, " the articles which have reference to the 
material condition and welfare of the peasants 
— to the fines, inheritance, imposts* the exac- 
tion of harsh, feudal services, and so forth — 
are equally founded in justice ; for government 
was not instituted for its own ends, nor to make 
use of the persons subject to it for the accom- 
plishment of its own caprices and evil passions, 
but for the interests and the advantage of the 
people. Now, the people have become fully 
impressed with this fact, and will no longer 



tolerate your shameful extortions. Of what 
benefit were it to a peasant that his field should 
produce as many florins as it does grains of 
corn, if his aristocratic master may despoil him 
of the produce, and lavish, like dirt, the money 
he has thus derived from his vassal in fine 
clothes, fine castles, fine eating, and drinking?" 
*' I myself,*' he said, " have many articles, even 
still more important ones, perhaps, that I might 
present against you in reference to the govern- 
ment of Germany, such as I did draw up in my 
book addressed to the German nobility. But 
my words passed unheeded by you like the 

Luther's unfeigned and hearty sympathies 
were with the peasants throughout. He speaks 
in the same emphatic language of the justice of 
their claims before the war, during the war, and 
after the war. With the very words in which 
he supports the rulers in suppressing the re- 
bellion he mingles the bitterest condemnation 
of their oppression and exactions, which had 
provoked it ; and at the end, contemplating in 
a horror from which he never recovered the 
hundred thousand slaughtered victims, he cried : 
"The spirit of these tyrants is powerless, 
cowardly, estranged from every honest thought. 
They deserve to be the slaves of the people." 



Luther had little superstition about the persons 
of princes, — almost no man of his time who had 
less ; but he had a feeling, which it is hard for 
us of this post-revolutionary age even to under- 
stand, of the sanctity of constituted authority. 
Above all, he was a conscientious and firm be- 
liever in the doctrine of non-resistance. He 
believed this to be the injunction of Christ; and 
moreover, rightly or wrongly, he sincerely be- 
lieved it, on rational grounds, to be the highest 
wisdom and virtue. As he coupled his sup- 
port of the rulers in suppressing the revolt 
with bitter condemnation of their tyranny, so 
he had coupled his bold advocacy of the claims 
of the peasants with the command that they 
should not resort to violence to enforce them, 
and the distinct assurance that he could not 
stand by them, if they did. This he had done 
not simply on the eve of war, but from the 
first and constantly. Be Luther open to what- 
ever criticism for short-sightedness and error 
in this unhappy episode, he Is not open to the 
charge of inconsistency. 

Luther, I say, was no fearer or flatterer of 
princes. Let that idea, as one calculated to 
explain anything in the Peasants* War, be 
straightway dropped. We have already seen 
something of his style of flattering princes and 



of the sort of superstition with which he viewed 
their persons. In dealing with King Henry 
VI 1 1., he was not a bit the bolder by reason of 
the English Channel. It was in a perfectly 
/general way that he said that " princes jiaye 
mostly been the greatest blockheads and the 
wickedest rascals," with " hearts of stone and 
heads of brass," and that he advised them, as 
he did, to "go to hell"; and he was as scornful 
often in his dealings with the German princes, 
from emperor down to dukes, as in his dealings 
with the king of England. *^ Would that 
Charles were a man ! " he cried out once, con- 
cerning the emperor ; and he ever had upon 
his lips the psalmist's word, " Put not your 
trust in princes." The idleness and indulgence 
of the nobles, in the midst of the sufEering and 
toil of the peasantry, is the constant subject of 
his criticism and of his amazement. On one 
occasion, while in his retirement at the Wart- 
burg, he was persuaded to join a hunting party 
of the knights. " I have been on a hunt for the 
past two days," he writes to Spalatin, "and have 
tasted of that bitter-sweet enjoyment of our 
noble lords ! We got two rabbits and a couple 
of poor partridges. A worthy occupation, in 
truth, for idle people ! " He seems to have 
occupied himself chiefly in thinking what the 



matter parabled. " The picture teaches nothing 
else than that the devil, through his godless 
masters and dogs, — the bishops and theologi- 
ans, — secretly hunts and catches the innocent 
little animals, — the common people.*' As to his 
fear of princes, that finds good comment in his 
word to the Elector Frederick, as he left the 
Wartburg. The Elector had warned him that 
Duke George of Saxony, a violent enemy of the 
Reformation, would immediately execute the 
imperial ban, if Luther should appear in Leipzig. 
" If things were at Leipzig as they are at Wit- 
tenberg," said Luther, "I would go there, if it 
rained Duke Georges for nine days running, and 
every one of them nine times as fierce as he. 
Duke George is not equivalent to even a single 
devil. And, since the Father of mercies hath 
made us lords over death and all devils, it 
would be the highest reproach unto him, did 
we not believe that we are also lords over Duke 
George's wrath." Declining the Elector's offer 
to protect him on his journey, he said : " I am 
going to Wittenberg under much higher protec- 
tion than the Elector's. Indeed, I am inclined 
to think that I can protect the Elector more 
and better than he can me. No sword can 
help this cause of mine. God alone can help 
without any human co-operation." 

144 UARtiN LUTliEk 

Luther believed that temporal government 
has a basis of divine authority, that the powers 
that be are ordained of God, — but this by no 
means so construed as to justify absolutism or 
unconditional submission to tyrannous or irra- 
tional government. "It is for us a law and 
duty," he said, with pointed reference to possi- 
ble political collisions in Germany, " to defend 
our rights against maleficent power." "A 
Christian," he said, " is composed of two kinds 
of persons, a spiritual person and a civil person. 
The believing or spiritual person ought to en- 
dure and suffer all things; but the temporal 
and civil person must maintain and defend 
itself, as the laws command.* Christ and the 
gospel do not abolish temporal rights and ordi- 
nances, but confirm them." "The emperor," 
he said, "is not an absolute monarch, govern- 
ing alone and at his pleasure ; he has neither 
power nor authority alone to make laws and 
ordinances, much less has he power, right, or 
authority to draw the sword for the subjugation 

• This distinction, which is, however, a very obvious one, is illustrated by 
the following passage from the Table-Talk: "If a robber on the highway 
should fall upon me, truly I would be judge and prince myself, and would use 
my sword, because nobody was with me, able to defend me ; and I should 
think I had accomplished a good work. But, if one fell upon me as a preacher 
for the gospel's sake, then with folded hands I would lift up mine eyes to 
heaven, and say: 'My Lord Christ, here I am. I have confessed and 
preached thee. Is now my time expired ? So I commit my spirit into thy 
hands.' And in that way would I die.'' 



of the subjects and members of the empire 
without the sanction of the law or the knowl- 
edge and consent of the whole empire. ... I 
would willingly argue this matter at length, 
whether we may resist the emperor or no. . . . 
These times are not the times of Diocletian. 
The emperor's authority and power, without 
the seven princes electors, is of no value. The 
emperor rules upon certain conditions. If the 
emperor with tyranny deals contrary to equity 
and justice, he thereby lays aside the person of 
a governor, and loses his right over the subjects 
by the nature of relatives ; for princes and sub- 
jects are equally bound, the one to the other, 
and a prince is clearly obliged to perform what 
he has sworn and promised, according to the 
proverb. Faithful master, faithful man. The 
laws are above a prince." 

These general principles of Luther it is nec- 
essary to grasp firmly and to keep constantly 
in mind, in considering his relation to the Peas- 
ants' War. 'There is very much foolish and 
misleading talk about his doctrine of the " di- 
vine right " of princes, in this connection. A 
doctrine of the divine basis and authority of 
government he did hold; but how he held it 
will be justly understood only when it is re- 
membered that he expounded it precisely in 
connection with the passages just quoted. 



Long before the peasants took up arms, Lu- 
ther foresaw the storm, and warned the nobles 
of the danger which impended, if concessions 
were not made. Already, in 1552, he predicted 
a general revolt in German lands. A year 
before the outbreak of the war, he said : " The 
laboring man, tried beyond all endurance, over- 
whelmed with intolerable burdens, will not and 
cannot any longer tamely submit ; and he has 
doubtless good reasons for striking with the 
flail and the club, as Hans Pitchfork threatens 
to do. I am delighted so far to see the tyrants 
trembling." Even when the rising of the 
peasants and their allies in the towns had act- 
ually begun, he wrote : " For such insurrection 
we have to thank you, ye princes and lords, 
ye purblind bishops and mad monks ! . . . You 
fleece and skin the people until they can bear 
it no longer. But the sword is now at your 
throat ! . . . You still think you are in the sad- 
dle : you will be lifted from it. If these peas- 
ants cannot do it, others will. And, though ye 
beat them all, they yet are unbeaten. God 
will raise up new ones ; for he means to destroy 
you, and destroy you he will. It is not peasants 
that rise against you, my dear lords : it is God 
himself, who will punish your tyrannic mad- 
ness ! . . . Cease your exactions, cease your cruel 



despotism ! . . . Use gentle means, lest the spark 
now lighted, extending itself gradually all round 
and catching at point after point, should pro- 
duce throughout Germany a conflagration which 
nothing can extinguish. You will lose nothing 
by gentleness ; and, even though you were to 
lose some trifling matter, the blessings of peace 
would make it up to you a hundred-fold. Re- 
sort to war, and you may all of you be swal- 
lowed up, body and goods.'* 

It is worthy of remark that, while Luther is 
accused so loudly to-day of lack of sympathy 
with the peasants, the chief accusation against 
him in his own day was that of having incited 
the revolt. In England, by such men as Sir 
Thomas More, he was identified with the insur- 
rection, even when he was struggling against 
it ; and, in Germany, he was compelled explicitly 
to defend himself as a champion of constituted 
government and law. Our slight and peppery 
German-American socialists scold at Luther 
celebrations, because, forsooth, kaiser and chan- 
cellor and court-chaplains join in them in the 
Fatherland, and as though there were no rela- 
tion under heaven in which a great man could 
be viewed but his relation to their own quarrel. 
They would do well to note that the only notable 
or living words at Luther celebrations, either in 



Germany or elsewhere, are the words not of 
courtiers or conservatives, but of liberal men, 
who truly see whither Luther's face was turned, 
and are careless about where he stood ; and they 
might also profitably remember that, under the 
late king of Prussia, Luther's political writings 
were seized by the police authorities and their 
circulation prohibited, — not, presumably, on ac- 
count of their reactionary tendency. 

At the same time that Luther was so severely 
rebuking the nobles, he published an address to 
the peasants, condemning the insurrection, de- 
claring that anarchy was a worse evil than any 
other, and that they might not count on his 
support in the resort to violence. He advised 
that arbiters should be chosen, some from the 
nobility and some from the towns, that both 
parties should give up something, and that the 
matter should be amicably settled. But he was 
too late. The insurgents were already in mo- 
tion, marching " to the music of the Marseillaise 
hymns of the day." Under the watchword of 
" No quarter to idle men,'* they massacred all 
the nobles who fell into their hands. In Fran- 
conia alone, they pillaged and burned two hun- 
dred and ninety-three monasteries ; and the 
more reckless of them preached open com- 
munism, demanding that whoever among the 



princes or nobles would not consent to this 
should be hanged. 

Luther now turned upon the peasants in most 
violent and unmeasured wrath, and threw his 
whole influence upon the side of the existing 
authorities until the insurrection was sup- 
pressed. It is for this that he is condemned. 
Had he joined the revolutionists, it is said, 
firmly supporting them in their use of force 
against acknowledged wrong, checking their 
excesses, and regulating their whole action as, 
with his great prestige and by right of his 
powerful leadership, he might well have done, 
he would have compelled the princes to yield, 
and wrought the political regeneration of Ger- 
many, — have saved Germany at least two pain- 
ful centuries, and identified the Reformation 
with the cause of political progress, instead of 
having exposed himself and his doctrine to the 
reproach of collusion with privilege and aris- 

Who shall say f It is the old question of 
Cromwell and Vane. It is the question of 
Harper's Ferry. " It was a question," says 
Carlyle, "which theoretical constitution build- 
ers may find easy to answer ; but to Cromwell, 
looking there into the real practical facts of it, 
there could be none more complicated. For 



three years, Cromwell says, this question had 
been sounded in the ears of the Parliament. 
They could make no answer ; nothing but talk, 
talk. Nevertheless, the question must and 
shall be answered. You sixty men there, be- 
coming fast odious, even despicable, to the 
whole nation, whom the nation already calls 
Rump Parliament, you cannot continue to sit 
there : who or what then is to follow } * Free 
Parliament,* right of Election, Constitutional 
Formulas of one sort or the other, — the thing 
is a hungry Fact coming on us, which we must 
answer or be devoured by it ! And who are 
you that prate of Constitutional Formulas, rights 
of Parliament ? You have had to kill your king, 
to make Pride's Purges, to expel and banish by 
the law of the stronger whosoever would not let 
your Cause prosper. . . . Tell us what we shall 
do ; not in the way of Formula, but of practica- 
ble Fact ! " He knew what he would do. He 
turned them out, locked the door and put the key 
in his pocket, and took the government of Eng- 
land into his own hands. " Reform Bill, free suf- 
frage of Englishmen } Why, the Royalists them- 
selves, silenced indeed but not exterminated, 
perhaps outmimderus. The great numerical ma- 
jority of England was always indifferent to our 
Cause, merely looked at it and submitted to it. 



It is in weight and force, not by counting of 
heads, that we are the majority ! And now, with 
your Formulas and Reform Bills, the whole 
matter, sorely won by our swords, shall again 
launch itself to sea ; become a mere hope and 
likelihood, small even as a likelihood ! And it 
is not a likelihood ; it is a certainty, which we 
have won, by God's strength and our own right 
hands, and do now hold here, Cromwell walked 
down to these refractory members ; interrupted 
them in that rapid speed of their Reform Bill ; 
ordered them to be gone, and talk there no 
more. Can we not forgive him ? Can we not 
understand him ? John Milton, who looked on 
it all near at hand, could applaud him." An 
end to all hope of the republic, and despotism 
instead, — despotism of brains and virtue, in- 
deed, but despotism ; and, with it, law and order, 
prosperity and peace. Yes, whispers Vane's 
pure spirit, — and 1660 ! Luther stopped anar- 
chy, you say, in 1525 ; but here loom the 
Thirty Years' War and the two dead centuries ! 
Ah, who shall predicate the sequence, who so 
backcast the years, and with omniscience mass 
contingencies } Emerson and Parker and Vic- 
tor Hugo we conclude to have been true proph- 
ets, in divining that John Brown was the servant 
of a higher law than any that ruled in Virginia 



in 1859. But who shall say that he who, in 
1859, condemned Harper's Ferry, not simply as 
mistaken, but as wrong, was a lackey of slave- 
holders and a traitor to humanity ? Yet be- 
tween the Peasants' War and Harper's Ferry 
lay all the didactic revolutions and democracy 
of the three most democratic and revolutionary 
centuries of history. 

This is not a question of political prescience 
and practical sagacity, but of motive and spirit ; 
and the more deeply the circumstances of the 
Peasants' War are studied, the more noble will 
Luther's general attitude appear. The demand 
that he should have put himself at the head of 
a general armed uprising of the German people 
wildly ignores the fact that, colossal and many- 
sided as he was, his special work in this world 
was not that of a politician, but of a reformer 
of religion ; while the boldness with which he 
stood by the peasants up to the last moment, 
in every demand and deed which it was pos- 
sible for him to countenance, appears all the 
nobler in the light of his constant painful con- 
sciousness that every popular excess brought 
disgrace and disaster to the cause of the Refor- 
mation, which was paramount to all else with 
him, and which every croaker in all Europe was 
laboring to prove the cause of license. 



The fundamental principle on which Luther . 
acted was the principle of non-resistance. If[ 
he had one conviction firmer than others, it was{ \ 
that the sword should never be used in propa-. 
gation of the truth. " It is' through the Word,^ 
and not by force," he loved to say, " that wis-' * 
dom governs." "I will preach, I will talk, I 
will write," he said; "but I will not use force 
or compulsion with any one.'* His training 
in the quietistic school of Tauler and the 
Theologia Germanica doubtless did much to 
strengthen this feeling in him ; but it was a 
very fundamental and pervading feeling. The 
principle constantly controlled him, whether it 
was his own personal cause that was concerned 
or a more general one. "You are blameless 
before God," he said to Frederick, declining 
any forcible interposition on his part, " whether 
I am imprisoned or killed. As elector, you are 
to be obedient to the superior authority, and 
suffer His Imperial Majesty to rule in city and 
country, according to the laws of the empire. 
You are not to defend me, or to resist or to in- 
terpose any hindrance whatsoever against the 
power that is seeking to capture or to kill me. 
For no one is entitled to resist the powers that 
be save Him who ordained the same : otherwise, 
it would be rebellion, and against God." 



What shall we say of this ? Had this prin- 
ciple obtained, says this one, this America 
would be to-day a British colony, France would 
still be under the heel of Bourbons and of 
Rome, and every movement which in these 
centuries we count most brilliant and benefi- 
cent, every movement wherein men have risen, 
scorning slavery, and driven a new stake for 
liberty and civilization, would be blotted from 
the page of history. And this seems to be the 
truth of the matter. Yet Christianity, it is 
urged, approves this doctrine of non-resistance, 
— the doctrine is fundamental to it. There is a 
certain sort of "radicals," — by the same token, 
an ignoble, poverty-stricken sort, not radicals 
at all, but labials, — whose chief joy and suste- 
nance is in crowding Christ into a corner ; and 
here is an antinomy, a reductio ad absurdunt^ 
after their own hearts, — and they write vigor- 
ous, virtuous essays upon Christianity versus 
Civilization. As concerns Christ, neither he 
nor any soul of his type can be crowded into a 
corner. Here, as everywhere else, it appears 
that his work was not to give men formulas, 
but a principle of life ; and the decision of each 
practical problem is thrown back on the individ- 
ual conscience, just as it was before, and as it 
ever will be to the end of time. If we read 



"Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right 
cheek, turn to him the other also," and '* He 
that takes the sword shall perish by the sword," 
we also read, " He made a scourge of small 
cords, and drove them all out of the temple." 
This latter is a myth, say the new critics, — an 
interpolation ; and Luther, when it was urged 
upon him during this very Peasants* War, was 
forced to dispose of it arbitrarily : " Christ did 
many things which we neither may nor can do 
after him. He walked upon the water," etc. 
But a myth, it should be remembered, if this be 
a myth, is almost always as fatally true to char- 
acter as history itself; and Luther, in simply 
ignoring this genuine Christian element, thereby 
proved himself so much less than Christ. Yet 
Luther only makes exclusive the principle 
which with Christ is certainly almost so, and 
the principle upon which it seems more and 
more exclusive stress is to be laid as civiliza- 
tion advances. It is a deep, far-reaching prin- 
ciple, this of "the irresistible might of meek- 
ness," as Milton so beautifully calls it, and 
commonly but shallowly and poorly appre- 
hended. It is the principle of absolute faith in 
intellect, the belief that man is, after all, so 
nobly constituted that he will not and cannot 
permanently or long resist the naked, unsup- 


ported right; the belief that, though we for 
truth's sake submit to wrong and crucifixion 
rather than strike the blow, to-morrow's sure 
reflection, repentance and rebuke shall do more 
to establish the truth which we have suffered 
for than any blow could do. It is a principle, 
say those who cherish it, whose beneficence 
may not appear in short perspective ; but, had 
good men been faithful to it through the centu- 
ries, the virtue and the civilization of the world 
to-day would be much greater than they are. 
That no generation has been willing to adopt 
it and bear the burden is but a proof of men's 
small faith in spirit and of their slowness to 
self-sacrifice for universal ends. 

I cannot, for my own part, accept this princi- 
ple of non-resistance as one universally or ex- 
clusively valid. I cannot doubt that, in this 
world of warring light and darkness, physical 
force may be the instrument and weapon of 
righteousness, as truly as otherwise ; and that 
he is the man of most efficient wisdom who 
sees this, — 

'* And, if some dreadful need should rise, 
Would strike, and firmly, and one stroke." 

Nor do I believe that right should resort to 
force simply in the defensive. When the issue 


is plain and collision inevitable, it matters little 
whether war begin with Sumter or with Harper's 
Ferry ; and there is an inspiration in seeing right 
the first to act. Only let men know assuredly 
that it is right, and not ambitious selfishness, 
which acts ; and let men know assuredly that 
this principle of non-resistance, if indeed erro- 
neous or partial, is an error which leans to 
virtue's side, a principle to be applied with 
ever greater confidence and completeness, as 
we advance from a condition where physical 
force has been paramount to a more intel- 
lectual civilization, and whose every success- 
ful application enlarges the sphere of its own 
validity and registers a victory of spirit. The 
great statesmen of our own time who, like 
John Bright, repudiating, indeed, the notion of 
"peace at any price," have nevertheless, in 
each successive emergency, practically taken 
their stand upon this principle and been will- 
ing to abide the appeal to history, have done 
more than almost any others to advance the 
cause of political morality and rationality ; 
while they who inveigh against the doctrine 
loudest are almost always they who need it 
most. More and more will wise men labor to 
bring the world to settle its quarrels in the 
arena of reason, instead of in the arena of war, 



and to make great sacrifices for the sake of 
peace ; and more and more will they who stand 
in the Protestant succession be proud and grate- 
ful that, if Martin Luther erred, he erred through 
devotion to a principle ideally so sublime, and 
demanding a courage loftier and more heroic 
than any courage of the battle-field. 

It may be thought that I have dwelt upon 
this subject of Luther's relation to the common 
people and to the Peasants' War at altogether 
disproportionate length, in an essay of such 
narrow limits as the present. It will not be by 
wisest readers that this will be thought. The 
man who can turn carelessly from those hun- 
dred thousand slaughtered men there in Fran- 
conia and Thuringia,— not chiefly bad and 
worthless men, but wronged and worthy men, 
down-trodden men, inflamed, how wildly soever, 
by an idea,* — turn from that spectacle as a 

* The peasants* insurrection was not a mere servile revolt, but a real 
attempt, however misconceived, to form a republican commonwealth. 
Munzer, the leader of the insurrection, who has been greatly abused by 
conservative and conventional writers, was unquestionably a sincere enthu- 
siast, actuated by a genuine desire for a better society and a democratic 
state. His belief that all the faithful had the Holy Spirit within them, 
and did not need any external rule, much resembles the Quaker's doctrine of 
the Inner Light. An interesting account has been preserved of an interview 
between Munzer and one of his associates and Luther. They laid their 
claims for support before him, and they said that they could prove their in- 
spiration by telling him what then passed through his mind. Luther chal- 
lenged them to the proof. " You think in your own heart that our doctrine 
is true,'* said one of them, impressively. '* Get thee behind me, Satan," said 


light thing to this question of the Epistle of 
James or of Jude as a momentous thing, this 
man, I say, is in a bad and melancholy way. It 
is not a momentous thing at all, my friend, 
whether one Jude was an original man or a 
second-rate man, significant or inconsiderable. 
But it is a momentous thing that those hundred 
thousand men, God*s children, lie there in their 
blood. It is a momentous thing that a hundred 
thousand more may lie down similarly in Rus- 
sia to-morrow, and another hundred thousand 
again in Franconia and Thuringia the next day. 
It is a momentous thing that good men, church- 
men as well as others, with these possibilities 
and judgment-day impending, are callous and 
indifferent, speculating with zest and relish 
about probation, purgatory and the New Jeru- 
salem, and with no energetic care that that sec- 
tion of eternity in which we find ourselves 
to-day be ordered by the laws of righteousness 
and reason. 

Luther, and dismissed them ; but he afterward said to his friends, frankly, 
"They were quite right: that thought crossed my mind about some of their 



With the criticism of the Socialist, hcywersr 
misdirected, crude, and captious, we cannot 
help feeling some sort of sympathy; for rt 
springs from a real hatred of injustice and an> 
truth, and an enthusiasm, however thin in many 
cases and merely blatant, for a rational and 
human commonwealth. For the criticism of 
the Romanist, which has been evoked daring 
these Luther days, we can feel only contempt. 
All of it which has yet been laid upon the table 
is the criticism of the dilettant, the sorehead, 
the sophist, the bassoon, or the bigot, never of 
the discriminating scholar, whose highest duty 
and whose first desire are ever to present a 
complex history and a complex truth with 
scrupulous equity, in what varied ways soever 
they may militate. Instead of this, the petty 
tactics of the hustings, the whitewash, the 
blackmail, the snarl, the innuendo, the mean 
disparagement, and the special plea I The per- 
fumed Monsignor, as aforesaid, from West End 
London, goes up and down our land, amazed 
and shocked that Luther, having once, of his 
own free will, taken the vows of "poverty, 
chastity, and obedience," should afterward have 
deliberately withdrawn from monkery. Albeit 


convinced that monkery was wrong and mis- 
chievous, and that his own entrance into it was 
a mistake, nevertheless, says the Spartan Mon- 
signor, he should have respected his vow. 
" Had such a contract been made with man and 
then broken, Luther would have been con- 
demned as dishonorable and dishonest ; but, as 
it was with God, man forgives, and would fain 
exalt the violator to a hero." Fie upon such 
foolery and fustian ! And yet there is no 
evidence that the super-sensitive conscience of 
the Monsignor, so distressed by Luther's broken 
promise, is moved at all by the gross and au- 
dacious falsehoods concerning Luther, coming 
from a hundred holy Roman pulpits in these 
days, which surely cannot altogether escape the 
Monsignor's attention, and cannot fail to be 
known by him for what they are.* Surely so 

*To enforce this by illustration is almost a work of supererogation. 
It is illustrated in every city in the land, on every Sunday, at this time. 
The city in which I am writing just after the Luther celebrations illus- 
trates it as well as another. Around the comer, one Father Ryan, S.J. , 
highly lauded, devotes a sermon to Luther, preached before a crowd, made 
much of, reported at great length in the morning nevrspaper, at greater 
length than any other Catholic utterance of the day. It dwells, as does 
our foreign Monsignor, upon Luther's " coarse scurrility" and the absence 
in him of " everything to be expected in a messenger of truth and charity " ; 
and yet it is itself one unbroken current of vulgar %nd violent abuse of 
Luther as a " licentious and utterly unredeemed villain." Of the violence, 
no matter; but, of the bald and base falsehoods and deceptions, much 
matter. " There is sometimes a good deal of sentmient and even sympathy 
thrown around Luther's marriage," observes Father Ryan, S.J., among 

1 62 ^^^ 77iV L UTHER 

painful a stickler for literal exactitude might 
prove his pain by rebuking these things also, 
even if without the precedent herein of cardinal 
and bishop. 

The Monsignor's own arraignment of Luther, 
which certainly has the very cardinal merit of 
decency, is as comprehensive and comprehensi- 

other things. *' He has been sometimes held up as a model of domestic 
virtue. His friend Melanchthon, who knew Luther well, would certainly be 
amused at this. He knew that Luther's life before his marriage was so 
openly and grossly immoral that after the marriage he did not do more than 
hope that this new kind of life would ' make him more decent. ' " Now, 
Father Ryan, S.J., knows very well that Melanchthon never said anything 
capable of such construction ; and he certainly should know that Melancbthon 
did say, " If it is asserted that there has been anything unbecoming in the 
affair of Luther's marriage, it is a false slander." Yet this is not the worst. 
" It is not necessary," says Father Ryan, S. J., ** for us to say anything of 
Luther, the married monk : he tells us himself he was a villain. Writing 
soon after his marriage to his intimate friend, Spalatinus, Luther says, ' I 
consider that I have made myself so vile and contemptible by this marriage » 
that I hope the angels will laugh and the devils weep.' " Now, what is the 
passage from Luther's letter to Spalatin, from which this priest of the Society 
of JtsHs quotes ? Here it is : " Pray that God may bless us. In the opinion 
of some, I have made myself contemptible by this marriage ; but, neverthe- 
less, I trust that angels smile and demons weep at what I have done. How 
inconsistent are those who call that impious and diabolical in me, which in 
others they pronounce sacred and pious ! " Lay beside this the priest's 
quotation. If the newspaper has wronged the father, we are sorry, and he 
should have immediately corrected a wrong so great. If the newspaper 
has reported truly, then we can only rejoice that the children of this 
world are better than the children of light, that in secular places such 
proceedings would still cover a man with disgrace, and that it is only in 
Holy Church that these things are safe, uncensured and condoned. It is 
one of the unquestionable evils of that freedom of the press, against which 
the Church has fought ii^o strenuously, that such mischievous misrepresenta* 
tions are spread broadcast among ignorant people, who never see corrections 
of them, without censorship and without punishment. 

The same carrier brings another illustration, in a broadside upon the 



ble a summary of the Church's case in brief as 
we are likely to get, and touches in some way 
or other all the counts of the common indict- 

(i) Luther left monkery, to which he had 
dedicated himself, and married a wife. — This 
seems to most of us a most commendable and 
salutary proceeding. 

(2) He was coarse, scurrilous, and unchari- 

" Causes and Results of Protestantism," in one of the leading Catholic news- 
papers of the West. The author, the Rev. Father Fairbanks, we read, is 
the son of a Methodist preacher, was himself, when young, an ardent 
Methodist, is now just as ardent a Catholic. In personal appearance, we 
read, " he does not resemble a priest, as he wears a full beard and mous- 
tache." His brain, however, has evidently become well metamorphosed, as 
will appear from the following very bare and meagre statement of his ex- 
planation of the " anti-Christian revolt," as he denominates the Reforma- 
tion. The final cause of the " revolt," we are told naively, ** is to be found 
in original sin." Luther living at another time, when even greater abuses 
existed, could not have kindled a fire. " He would have been as insignificant 
as thousands of other corrupt disturbers of society who have lived before and 
since." Abuses flourish in every age. Some periods have been brighter and 
some darker than the sixteenth century ; and in them have been found " evil 
men of more powerful genius, if not more reckless," than Luther. Luther 
himself was actuated by no love of liberty or hatred of tyranny, but made use 
of " the designs of ambitious monarchs in opposing the just authority of 
Rome," merely to satisfy a feeling of personal revenge and pique. "The 
occasion of his fall was presented in a wound given to his pride. ... If the 
promulgation of the indulgences had been confided to the Augustinian Order, 
Luther, as its most renowned preacher in Saxony, would, without doubt, 
have been chosen to publish them. But, contrary to the desire and expecta- 
tion of the Augustinians, John Tetzel, a learned and distinguished preacher 
of the Order of St. Dominic, was chosen to perform that important duty. 
He who would willingly have preached the indulgences now, through envy 
and revenge, determined to preach against them. Wounded self-love fren- 
zied the would-be matricidal arm to plunge the dagger into his mother's 
breast. Personal pride and ambition nerved him to raise his impious hand, 



table. — But his coarseness was by no means 
coarser than that of his Catholic antagonists ; 
and the uncharitableness part of it becomes 
quite invisible and inaudible, beside the tone 
of Rome. Luther was treated as a "savage 
beast" and a "wild boar," not by heated dis- 
putants, but in formal and deliberate docu- 
ments promulgated by the papal authority ; 
while the cumulative and succulent fiendish - 
ness of the terms of the papal bull of excom- 

and the spirit of monkish rivalry in his Order gave energy to his blow.*' 
And this passes for history in reputable Catholic quarters ! It is because 
we will not have history taught so that we are to have " a fight " sprung 
upon us and our public schools blown up! "If Tetzel/' c6ntinues our 
simple ex-Methodist with the full beard, *' in his ardor of speech, carried 
the doctrine of indulgences too far and turned it into an abuse, it does not 
in the least justify Luther in his hot-headed course. The fault should have 
been referred by him and his Order to the lawful authority {sic) for correction. 
But there is no reliable historical proof for any such supposition." Our 
Catholic friend is thus quite willing to accept the proceedings against which 
Luther and Germany rose, as altogether legitimate, orthodox, and in accord- 
ance with the Church's standard of virtue. The latter half of his article — 
there are five long columns of this stuff — is devoted to showing how Luther, 
once having shipwrecked conscience by this indulgence of spite and ambition, 
gave himself up to " unrestrained license and unbridled passion." " Wine 
and women, sensual indulgence, and an obstinate and revengeful pride were 
the chief motives and end of his life." He quotes many of the utterances of 
Luther, which have been quoted in their proper relation in this volume, to 
show the moral disorder which followed the assault upon the old Church ; 
but he fails to see or to say that this was the same disorder as that which 
accompanied the breaking-up of the Greek and Roman mythology. He 
makes the most perverse misrepresentations, by garbled quotations and other- 
wise, in the attempt to identify Luther with doctrines of sexual license. " It 
would be better to live in concubinage than in chastity," he makes him say, 
in a manner calculated to convey the identical impression which the passage 
conveys, thus baldly printed here. What words could be too strong for the 
expression of the indignation which every honest man should feel at the 



munication, not only as it was in Luther's time, 
but as still in vogue, surpasses everything — as 
the learned Monsignor certainly would not vent- 
ure to deny — to which the most pretentious 
Protestantism ever aspired. " That the Papacy 
was Antichrist," says one, well putting the 
antithesis, " became the surest and most vehe- 
ment of Luther's convictions ; and it evoked 
from him outbursts of Titanic wrath which are 

deliberate publication of such passages, thus insulated and misleadingly 
translated, or at the undertaking to write upon Luther at all by one who had 
not so far gotten at the spirit of the man as to know that even if such words 
as these, with such meaning, actually occurred, they must needs occur in a 
serious connection, demanding commentary and explanation, if to be sub- 
mitted at all to the mixed masses of men ? 

I have seen tables of vulgar passages from the Bible and from Shak> 
spere, raked together by lascivious and malevolent moles, for the purpose of 
proving that those books are demoralizing and not to be put into men's hands. 
These muck-rakers do not prove Shakspere and the Bible smutty: they 
simply prove themselves smutty. The well-ventilated vulgarity which is 
actually scattered in those great pages can be safely left to itself, — never hurt 
anybody very badly yet, — while the sinister tables damn the man who reads and 
the man who makes them. No honest man ever read Martin Luther largely 
yet, vulgarity and all, without finding a soul of rugged, sincere virtue, and 
getting good and not hurt ; while he who burrows in his hundred volumes, 
the stormy records of a stormy time, for the vile purpose of tabulating vulgari- 
ies, is purchasing for himself damnation. 

I have referred to the utterances of these two fathers, not because they 
are singular, but precisely because they are representative. Such is the 
general method and tone of the Roman Church on these questions, at this 
time. It may be objected that these words come from obscure men and 
places. The objection would not be valid. Yet I quote further, from an 
article in Months the Catholic magazine. " Go to, then, Doctor Martin 
Luther," concludes the writer of this article, " blasphemer and hypocrite, 
thou lustful monk and sacrilegious priest, without faith in God or hope in 
the Redeemer, even in the convent, — ^tak'e thyself off, begone out of our 
sight, fly away into space. Papist or Protestant, we will have none of thee ; 


equalled in the history of mankind only by the 
fury of the Papacy itself against heretics." 

(3) "The oft-time claimed honor of having 
put the Bible within the reach of the people 
cannot be given Luther. . . . There were no 
less than five translations into German before 
Luther was born, and twelve others before 
his own appeared." — The tacit acknowledg- 
ment that it was an honor to put the Bible 
within the reach of the people is welcome. 
But the reference to German translations before 
Luther's, as entitled to consideration or respect 

for, with all our sins and unworthiness, yet are we men, and thou art of the 
earth earthly, of the flesh fleshly, of the devil devilish.*' But, the objector 
may persist, the editor did not write this. Yet he did admit it, and he does 
not criticise it ; and no word of rebuke has come from any man of standing 
or authority in the Church for passages like this, with which the whole 
Catholic press of the country teems. And no man of them all seems to per- 
ceive the satire of this underrating and abuse of their great opponent, nor 
what complete disaster would ensue from the single blow of some really able 
and earnest man, touching some really vulnerable point, if one so weak and 
.vile as Luther, dealing with fictitious and trumped-up abuses, has been able 
to produce the remarkable results which we see. "The Romanists do but 
prejudice their own cause," well writes Krauth, "when they undervalue a 
man who, with nothing but the weapons of the Spirit, shook to its lowest 
depths the entire Church of the Middle Ages. Every Catholic who claims 
to be a lover of truth might learn from the word of Stolberg, who, though he 
deserted Protestantism for the Catholic Church, says: 'Against Luther's 
person I would not cast a stone. In him, I honor not alone one of the 
grandest spirits that have ever lived, but a great religiousness also, which 
never forsook him.' " Our carping, snarling priests might well remember 
that this has been the tone of all really noble-minded Catholics, from Stol- 
berg and Schlegel to Ignatius Dollinger. And they might also weU remem- 
ber that, in Luther's own time, almost every cultivated man in Germany 
gave him his sympathy. 


from a literary stand-point, or as having any pow- 
erful currency among the German people, dis- 
credits either the Monsignor's scholarship or 
his candor. " It is true," says Krauth, " that, 
beginning with the Gothic translation of Ulfil- 
las, in the fourth century, there had been vari- 
ous translations of the Scriptures into the 
Germanic tongues. About 1466 appeared the 
first Bible printed in German. It came from 
the press of Eggesteyn, in Strasburg, — not, 
as has been frequently maintained, from the 
press of Faust and Schoffer in 1462. Between 
the appearance of this Bible and that of Luther 
there were issued in the dialect of Upper Ger- 
many some fourteen editions of the Bible, 
besides several in the dialect of Lower Ger- 
many. These were, without exception, trans- 
lations of a translation. They were made from 
the Vulgate ; and, however they may have dif- 
fered, they had a common character which 
may be expressed in a word, — they were abom- 
inable. In the copy of one of them there is 
a picture of the Deluge, in which mermaids 
are floating around the ark, arranging their 
tresses with the aid of small looking-glasses, 
with a most amphibious nonchalance. .The 
rendering is about as true to the idea as the 
picture is to nature. Other editions swarm 

1 68 ^^^ TIN L UTHER 

with typographical errors, — and the typog- 
raphy is the best part. How Luther raised 
what seemed a barbarous jargon into a lan- 
guage which, in flexible beauty and power of 
internal combination, has no parallel but in 
the Greek, and in massive vigor no superior 
but the English, writers of every school, Prot- 
estant and Romish alike, have loved to tell." 

(4) With reference to the corruption of the 
Catholic Church at the time of Luther's pro- 
test, it is true, we are told, that the conduct of 
many had grown "lax and scandalous." But 
" a false issue was raised ; and Luther, instead 
of striving to refornc^ manners, strove to reform 
doctrine. . . . The disciplinary decrees of the 
Council of Trent show too sadly how fearfully 
reformation of manners was needed among 
large numbers of the clergy and laity. But 
the commandments are none the less true, 
although we break them. So was it in the fif- 
teenth century. The doctrines of the Church 
were the same then as now. Men were taught 
with truth and justice, but many followed it 
not." — The appeal is to history. It is true 
enough that the doctrines of the Roman Church 
are the same now as then. But the doctrines 
of the Church are not now, as then, the only 
doctrines, nor indeed the important or control- 



ling doctrines, among the world's controlling 
men or in the world's intelligent society ; nor 
do these doctrines determine the character of 
the institutions which chiefly determine the 
morals and social activities of the Church's 
own members. The man who believes that, 
had the Church's doctrines and authority main- 
tained undisputed and universal sway through 
these centuries, with that attitude to politics, 
science and education, which characterized 
them in the sixteenth century, believes that 
the reformed doctrine, the new view of author- 
ity and Protestant vigilance have nothing to do, 
have not indeed almost everything to do, with 
our better morals and the better morals of Ro- 
manism itself, must study history and the times 
to small purpose. 

(5) Luther did not cause the Reformation: 
he was the mere mouthpiece of a '' mighty im- 
pulse " and of the " deep, bold thought " which 
pervaded all Europe. *'To attribute to him 
the intellectual movement of his time and its 
consequent development is as intelligent as it 
would be to attribute to the gentle hand which 
touches the spring, when launching a mighty 
iron-clad, the invention of the machinery or 
the force producing the motion." — Thus, will- 
ing to say anything that may disparage Luther, 




the spokesman of Rome, for the nonce, makes 
common cause with Buckle and the idolaters of 
" environment " ; and, of course, he simply 
weakens his own case by doing it, — since, if 
Luther was not a cause, but the representative 
and product of a mighty general demand for 
reformation, this pervasive public feeling' 
clearly sprang from very patent and very fla- 
grant wrongs. Better for the Church the val- 
iant theory of our moustached priest, that 
Monk Martin was simply mad because he 
missed the indulgence job in Saxony, and hence 
the "revolt." True enough it is, of course, 
that almost all the circumstances of the time 
were such that only the powerful leader was 
needed to rouse the powerful revolt. That 
leader was needed, and in Luther he appeared. 
Within twenty years, more than half of the 
population of Germany, following him, had 
abandoned the Roman Church. 

Quite aside from the reference of this point 
of the Monsignor's to the case of the Roman 
Church, — to which it really has little reference 
at all, — the general matter, in its representa- 
tive capacity, has an interest, although much 
greater for some minds than others. "There 
is a dispute," says Phillips Brooks, "as to 
whether Luther belonged to the Reformation 


1 1 




or the Reformation belonged to Luther, — 
whether he created the change or led it. It 
is a useless question. Little, indeed, and very 
transitory the Reformation would have been, 
if it could have been any one man's work. 
The work of one great man cannot be sep- 
arated from humanity. Luther himself would 
have been the last to claim that he ever created 
the Protestant Reformation ; but, if any man's 
personality was ever prominent in any great 
crisis, it was Luther's/' 

There is a spirit abroad which loves to slight 
the great man and the hero, says that every- 
thing is to be explained in the lump, and that 
there is no genius. Luther was nobody ; Loy- 
ola was nobody ; Columbus was nobody ; Sam- 
uel Adams was nobody ; Garrison was nobody ; 
Jesus was nobody. The leviathan. Humanity, 
had come to a point where it needed a certain 
service, and used these as its tools, — might 
have used others as well. It is a theory very 
flattering to the vanity of mediocrity, — medi- 
ocrity both of brains and of virtue. We are as 
great and good as anybody, only we lack prov- 
ocation and opportunity. The hero and the 
genius, friend, create opportunity : every time 
is great to them. There are no " mute, inglori- 
ous Miltons " ; and, if you are not the bearer 



of some great new truth to men, it is not be- 
cause God is exhausted. Christianity, you say, 
would have had no success in the Greece of 
Pericles nor in the Rome of Brutus, — no de- 
mand for a new religion there, — and Jesus 
would not have been Jesus, but for the disci- 
pline and inspiration of the prophets, would 
have dried up in the dyspeptic agnosticism of 
a Belgrade parl'or and in the atmosphere of the 
society newspaper. But Nicodemus had the 
prophets, and every doctor in Jerusalem and 
Galilee, and nothing adamantine insulated them 
from the influences of the times and from the 
vision of God. And the concern of interest 
in our present case is that Martin Luther is 
nailing theses there to the church door, while 
John Tetzel sells indulgences, although he, too, 
has good chance to see that the Church is cor- 
rupt, and that the heart of man is deceitful and 
desperately wicked, sadly needing dews of 
heavenly grace. 

While Luther was certainly affected, as was 
all Europe, by the various movements of the 
RcfiaissancCy it remains true, as concerns his 
work in the reformation of religion, that never 
was so great a work undertaken by one less in- 
fluenced by previous workers in the same direc- 
tion. There was nothing that he did which he 



might not as well have essayed, and probably 
would not have essayed, had no man ever 
spoken against Rome before. His protest was 
born directly of his personal need of a religion 
which Rome did not supply, and of his natural 
horror at the corruptions of the Church. It is 
true enough that Walther von der Vogelweide 
had written violent anti-popish poems three 
hundred years before Luther was born. It is 
true enough that the work of Wiclif and of 
Huss had not been without its influence upon 
the general mind, doing much to make it ready 
for Luther's more powerful word ; but, in the 
beginning, Wiclif and Huss were but mere 
names to Luther himself. He was a reformer 
primarily, because he felt the need of being 
reformed himself, and not because of the writ- 
ings of any precedent Englishman or Bohe- 

Afterward, he came to know their writ- 
ings well and rejoiced to find them — as 
well as the writings of Wessel, to which he 
paid special tribute — in the same direction as 
his own thought. " All that I have thus far 
taught," he said, at the time of his excommu- 
nication, being stigmatized as a fellow-heretic 
with Huss, "I have learned from John Huss, 
but without knowing it. John Staupitz has 



done the same.* In short, we are all Hussites 
without being aware of it. The Apostle Paul 
and Augustine were also Hussites." 

(6) Luther's claim, **that reason or private 
judgment is the final court for deciding the ac- 
ceptance and signification of revelation," is, we 
are told, opposed to common sense ; for how, it 
is asked, can such a process secure " that up- 
erring certainty, excluding all doubt, which is 
necessary ** in matters of religion ? Reason has 
a right to examine the credentials of the mes- 
senger of revelation ; but, being secured as to 
its authenticity, to assert that reason is its 
judge is "a cloak for covering the most abject 
servitude of mind." For ** how can liberty of 
intellect be saved in receiving revelation under 
a system which puts the mind at the mercy of 
translators and interpreters of such revelation ?" 
The fruit of such an illogical position is natural 
and evident, and the Monsignor draws upon 
eminent Protestant historians to help confirm 
his facts. Since the first great impulse, '* Prot- 
estant churches have made no advance and have 
exercised no perceptible influence." " What- 
ever is lost by Catholicism is gained by Ration- 

*If there was one man to whom, more than to any other, far more 
than to Wiclif atid Hubs, Luther was indebted for liis iropulaei to the 
Reformation, that man was the learned and noble Staupiti. 



Surely, the most remarkable succotash of 
Romanism and Evangelicalism, of truth, half- 
truth, inconsequence and falsehood, that is often 
encountered in a single paragraph ! Of Evan- 
gelicalism,— for how often have we heard from 
that quarter the same dismal story of the 
capacity and right of reason to examine the 
credentials of revelation, and its incapacity to 
judge its substance! That scrofulous thought 
can well be left to Mr. Hunger and the " New 
Orthodox,** who have very neat and sufficient 
medicine for it. What is this much-talked-of 
"credential" of revelation, one is tempted to 
ask ironically, of whose infallible authenticity 
reason, impotent to know the truth itself as 
truth and the good as good, may so easily be 
absolutely sure, and what is the process by 
which the Monsignor and John Smith attain 
this absolute sureness, which other minds, 
almost as bright and presumably as ingenuous, 
find, on their part, opposed to "common 
sense" 1 Being sure of the infallible "creden- 
tial," — this is the Roman of it, — even then 
the individual may not trust his own reading 
of the revelation, but only some interpretation 
duly statuted by the infallible " Church." But 
when and where, our irony yet urges, did the 
nature of things pronounce a church infalli- 



ble? Where is that fructifying decree also 
recorded ? And, if this be a province in which 
reason may put questions, on what rational 
ground is it to be expected that a thousand 
dullards should outrede a seer, their cumula- 
tive near-sightedness transcending his intellect 
and insight, — that God's truth, which F^nelon 
must speak of under correction, should leap 
infallibly to answer the narrow majority in a 
council of jealous, political prelates, or, but 
half revealed to the soul of Thomas k Kempis, 
stand clear before the official eye of Pope 
Roderic Borgia?* The strange and quite in- 
comprehensible inconsequence in the Mon- 
signor's olla podrida is the assertion that the 
right of private judgment is a cloak for mental 
servitude. The falsehood is the notion that, 
in matters of religion, "an unerring certainty, 
excluding all doubt, is necessary." Such cer- 
tainty is neither necessary nor desirable, either 
in matters of religion or in any other matters. 

*The valorous double-twist by which the Roman Church gets at its 
comfortable " unerring certainty, excluding all doubt," thinking itself infalli- 
ble because it has voted itself so, reminds us of the naive complacency of 
that probably mythical council of the Saints of Salt Lake, which resolved, 
according to the old story: (i) That the earth is the Lord's, and the 
fulness thereof ; (2) That the Lord hath given the earth to his saints ; (3) 
That we are the saints. '* Surely,*' says Gladstone, in pardonable and even 
commendable impatience, " in the sonorous pretensions of the Latin contro- 
verbalists, there is a great deal of what in common afiEairs would be adjudged 
to be no better than 'tall talk.' " 



Whether necessary or desirable or neither, 
men's disagreements teach the Monsignor and 
teach us all that it does not exist, and that the 
nature of things wills that we shall get on 
without it. We walk by faith, and not by sight, 
said the wise man ; and so it is doubtless best 
that we should walk. Not unerring certainty, 
but the balance of probabilities, — it is upon 
this that we have to act ; and this, indeed, is 
the very ground of human growth and disci- 
pline. A formula from heaven instructing us 
how to regulate our politics and our economy, 
so as to save the million souls ground up each 
year by our folly and our crudity, might be 
welcome ; but it is doubtful whether it would 
be truly beneficent, and it is sure that we shall 
never get it. Nor shall we get, nor did men 
ever, any other formula from heaven. 

But there is, in the Monsignor's arraignment, 
one important truth. The Protestant Church, 
he tells us, — meaning by it the religious bodies 
resting on the doctrinal formulas of Luther and 
his associate reformers, — makes no advance 
and exercises no deep influence. Whatever is 
lost by Catholicism is gained by Rationalism. 
This, I say, is true. By which it is not meant 
that the Protestant Church — and the same is 
true, of course, of the Roman Church — does 


not exercise a powerful lateral influence, does 
not do great good in a thousand ways, and 
remain a medium of inspiration. It is meant 
that the Protestant formula no longer controls, 
expresses, incites or satisfies the world's deep 
and significant intellectual activities, whatever 
is fresh, sincere, original, great or prophetic 
in the world's literature, science, art, religion 
and life, whatever has in it potency, promise 
and the future. But this does not discredit 
Protestantism. The Protestant Church was a 
small part of Protestantism. Protestantism 
was not chiefly a Church, but a new spirit. 

' .The Protestant Church is but a moment in that 
great dialectic by which humanity is passing 

, altogether from the Dispensation of the Church 
to the Dispensation of the Commonwealth. 
The Christian Church in its totality is but a 
greater moment in the same great process. 
When Christendom transcended the concep- 
tion of its Christ as " the only begotten Son of 
God," — as, in the minds of its philosophers, it 
did a century ago, — and clearly grasped the 
conception, which already hovered before the 
minds of the earliest apostles, of Christ as "the 
first-born among many brethren," then the Dis- 
pensation of the Church began to die, and the 
Dispensation of the Commonwealth was bom. 



Therefore, men are little troubled by any 
logical dilemma into which Church or churches 
are crowded. And nothing shall prevent or 
hinder us from doing hearty justice to that 
worthier and grander definition of the Church 
as Church, which Rome, in its ideal, satisfies. 
For who can well deny that that is the worthier 
and grander definition of the Church, which 
views it as internally inspired by the same 
Holy Ghost, and endowed with the same super- 
natural powers, which worked at the beginning, 
— while the Protestant theory, with its insu- 
lated and embalmed miracle and inspiration, 
is arbitrary, mechanical, ignoble and faithless } 
If, in this present revived controversy between 
Romanism and Protestantism, men are helped 
to see this clearly, at least one good purpose 
will be served ; for so they will be helped 
toward a nobler conception of their own human 
nature and of history. 


Protestantism is a spirit, not a church. If 
Protestantism were a church, then indeed might 
men say, Roman men and other, that Protest- 
antism had failed or would fail. " If we think 
of Protestantism," says Phillips Brooks, in the 


very thought of Carlyle, " as a power that tried 
to take the place of Rome and govern mankind 
in the same cruel fashion, — if for Protestant- 
ism to succeed is to bring all men together in 
loyalty to lengthy creeds, — then certainly Prot- 
estantism is a failure. But that Protestantism 
is not a failure, which, for four centuries, at 
least, has held the tyranny of Rome in check, 
and filled the world with so much intelligence 
and freedom of spirit that, even if Rome should 
become again the mistress of the world, she 
could not again be the blind and brutal Rome 
with which Luther fought. But to have held 
the power of Rome in check for four centuries 
would have been a poor recompense. The 
Protestantism of Luther, Milton, Bunyan, 
Butler, Wordsworth and Tennyson, Washing- 
ton and Lincoln, is not a failure. Perhaps a 
new Luther is needed for the next great step 
that humanity is to take, but that step is pos- 
sible mainly because of what Luther did four 
hundred years ago." 

Yet not Romanists only, but preachers of 
"drowsy inanities, not a few, that call them- 
selves Protestant," will have it that Luther shall 
stand to us chiefly for a formula and a culty — 
such creed and scheme and dialect as he uttered 
himself by in his day. They scoff at him who 


speaks of the connection of Luther's protest- 
antism with the protestantism of our day, with 
modern freedom, rationalism, and democracy, — 
scoff at Carlyle, when he says that English 
Puritanism was the second act of it, and the 
French Revolution the third act. They cannot 
see that Luther was dynamic : they do not know 
that it is not what a man is in esse, but what he 
is in posse, that counts in this world.* They 
are only anxious — among Germans, Vilmar and 
others — to save him from the reputation of a 
Revoltitiondr, Ah, friend, it is like aping Brad- 
ford's archaic speech, and setting aesthetic copies 

• " In the truest sense, Luther is the father of modem civilization. He 
proclaimed that freedom of thought without which it is easy to see that, 
despite the great modem inventions, the spirit of the Dark Ages must have 
been indefinitely prolonged. It was the spiritual freedom which Luther 
asserted that produced political freedom and the freedom of the press. 
Luther's spirit was to make the invention of Gutenberg the true servant of 
. humanity, and to open to the benign genius of liberty the lands to which 
Gioja's mariner's compass should point the way. 

" Of course, neither in his own life nor in that of those who followed him 
most closely was the great doctrine of liberty, for which his name stands, 
fully developed, nor has that doctrine yet regenerated human society. In- 
deed, much that is strictly Lutheran, in the sense of necessary consequence 
of his great doctrine, is not to be found in his works, and would have been 
personally repudiated by him. But it is his, nevertheless, as the free politi- 
cal development of England and America is the result of Ptiritanism, 
however di£Ferent its aspect may be from that of the Puritan Commonwealth, 
and however sternly the Puritan may have denounced it. Out of strength 
comes forth sweetness. Out of Luther came forth John Woolman and 
Channing, and those also at whom Woolman and Channing would look in 
wonder and even with apprehension. 

" The lesson of Luther's birthday is not only that the individual con- 
science alone reveals the truth and the way to the sincere soul, but that the 


of Brewster's chair beside your umbrella-stand, 
hoping so to make yourself a Puritan. The 
Governor's and Elder's ghosts shall scare you 
in your dreams ! There was a General Synod 
the other week, which instructed all its clergy 
to preach upon Luther, on his birthday, in 
grateful recollection of his doctrines of imputed 
righteousness and of the Bible as an infallible 
rule of faith. Had they said that simple word 
of Herder's, "Let us remember Luther's method 
of thought, his plain hints and his strong truths, 
and let us apply them to our own times ! " what 
man in this Emerson's America or in Adam's 

man who has the courage to hold to it firmly will be at 1a«t recognized and 
honored. It is the oldest of sayings that a prophet is not honored in his 
own country, and that we do not recognize the angels with whom we live. 
Many a ' solid man of Boston ' glorifies the memory of Sam Adams, who, 
had he lived in Sam Adams' day, would have thought him a pestilent fel- 
low, and who look askance upon the Sam Adamses of their own day. It 
may be wisely remembered by the respectable and dominant opinion which 
delights to pay homage to Luther that the same respectable and dominant 
opinion of his own time hated and hunted him. The tale is forever 
repeated. The other day at a public dinner in Boston, the Lord Chief 
Justice of England, who would be heard nowhere more respectfully than in 
Boston, mentioned several distinguished men of that city and neighbor- 
hood, but the four that he first named together were Benjamin Franklin and 
Daniel Webster and Joseph Story and Theodore Parker. But how long is 
it since, to many of the eminent citizens who applauded Lord Coleridge 
Theodore Parker was abhorrent as dangerous both to Church and State ? . . ' 
And so, extolling the brave, humane, indomitable, and unquailing Luther* 
the truest commemorative service, when the sermon is spoken and the 
oration is delivered and the festivities have ceased, will be to recognise and 
sustain the Luthcrs of tn-day, the men who are working in his spirit, and 
who, amid the bitterest hostility and the most contemptuous ridicule, follow 
the voice that speaks in their own consciences."— Gtorgt WUliam Curti*. 


race would have divined that those doctrines 
were what were meant to be remembered ? 

Perhaps a new Luther is needed for the next 
great step ! If he should come, with the old 
Luther's method of thought, and apply it to 
our own times, his hammer would ring upon the 
doors of the churches calling themselves Lu- 
theran and Protestant, just as the old Luther's 
hammer rang at Wittenberg. He would pick 
up the Catechism of this Church, the Prayer- 
Book of this other : — These are your Articles 
of Religion. But confessedly you do not be- 
lieve this Thirteenth Article, nor this Eigh- 
teenth, nor this other. You do not believe 
that Marcus is damned; and you had that 
Hindu preaching gospel to you. — Ah, but, dear 
Luther, these articles are no longer official 
and authoritative standards : we bind them into 
our Prayer-Book now only because they have 
historical interest. — That does not appear. If 
it be so, then you deceive the people and 
wittingly encourage false doctrine. I nail this 
thesis to your door : A Church shall say what 
it means, and not deceive the people. You com- 
pel this man to declare, in being ordained to 
your ministry, that he believes " all the Canon- 
ical Scriptures." It is a simple word. No 
person without ulterior ends ever found but 

1 84 


one meaning in it, — and that not disbelief in 
the stories of Genesis and Exodus and Joshua 
and Jonah and immaculate conceptions, which 
you are trying to bring your people to look at 
rationally. Yet, knowing that an attempt to 
change it to a formula clearly expressing the 
view of scholars would split your Church 
asunder, you encourage men, holding the mod- 
ern view of the Hebrew Scriptures, to take the 
vow with mental reservation and silent post- 
scripts. I nail this thesis to your door : A^ 
Church shall not encourage compromise nor equiv- 
ocation in its teachers. You pray to " Holy Trin- 
ity, Three Persons and One God." But no sin- 
cere man ever yet chose to speak so, when 
he really felt himself in the presence of High 
Heaven, and was not trying instead, under the 
pretext of prayer, to reinforce a creed. This is 
trifling profanity, not prayer. I nail this thesis 
to your door : A^ Church shall speak in the words 
of nature and simplicity. You pray to be deliv- 
ered from ** everlasting damnation," and preach 
" eternal hope." You pray to Christ as having 
made, " by his one oblation of himself once of- 
fered, a full satisfaction for the sins of the 
whole world," and straightway mount your pul- 
pit to denounce the " substitutional theory," as 
you call it. You rattle through your creed ; 



and yet you tell me that you are .not sure at all 
that Christ was "born of a virgin," or that he 
*' rose from the dead," speaking after the man- 
ner of men, but think these may be fond myths, 
rooted in some great spiritual facts. At most, 
you only sometimes believe that you believe 
them. Ah, says the prophet, " only in the 
world's last lethargy can such things be done, 
and accounted safe and pious. It is not now 
known that religion is not a doubt ; that it is 
a certainty, or else a mockery and horror. That 
none or all of the many things we are in doubt 
about and need to have demonstrated and ren- 
dered probable can by any alchemy be made a 
* religion ' for us, but are and must continue a 
baleful, quiet or unquiet, hypocrisy for us ; and 
bring — salvation do we fancy } I think it is 
another thing they will bring, and are, on all 
hands, visibly bringing, this good while ! " You 
are content to exclude and excommunicate the 
man who believes the great spiritual fact ; you 
fear and dandle the man who believes that he 
believes the myth. On all these things, I have 
indignant theses. You say you make these 
compromises and do all these things which do 
not satisfy you, but which trouble you, for the 
sake of being useful. Do you know, friend, no 
other way of being useful, no truthful way, only 


one way ? Ah, how poorly you have appre- 
hended the infiniteness of life and the riches of 
God's armory ! Think on these things. And 
to your door I nail this thesis : // is not neces- 
sary that any man be useful^ but it is necessary 
that every man be righteous. So this new Lu- 
ther would say. 

Shall we keep waiting for this new Luther, as 
the Jews still waited for Elias, while John Bap- 
tist was thundering in their ears } *' If you had 
but eyes to see," said Jesus, "this is Elias." 
And it may be that, while men wait for the 
new Luther, his voice is already ringing in their 
ears ; and they are only querying, like Eck and 
Emser and Cajetan, how they may disparage 
and rebut his word. I think he spoke in Less- 
ing, I think he spoke in Kant, I think he spoke 
in Emerson and Parker and Carlyle. Let us 
not wait for great new Luthers. Let us each, 
, I great or small, do his own part in his own place, 
J in Luther's spirit. ,Eyery man is great enough 
to be heroic and to be true ; every man can pos- 
sess himself of Luther's method, and apply it 
faithfully to his own time. 

The slight regard men show for awful credal 
obligations is telling with a subtle power upon 
our whole society. When diplomacy stands at 
the altar, what shall be expected in the market- 



place ? And who would venture to deny that 
subterfuges and such constructions of religious 
obligations are common in our churches as, 
transferred to business dealings, would drive 
men in disgrace from the Exchange ? It is a 
startling fact, that the principals in so many of 
the notorious embezzlements of our time, from 
Glasgow to Fall River and Wall Street and on 
to San Francisco, have been men of high place 
in the churches, all the time duly and fluently 
repeating profound professions of belief on 
points concerning which it is impossible that 
many should have clear understanding or genu- 
ine conviction at all. I sat in such a church 
yesterday, and the preacher said to the great 
mixed congregation : " We will rise as is our 
wont, and say the Creed. Those of you who 
are not familiar with it will find it pasted to the 
cover of the hymn-book, and can read it.** I 
shuddered for that people. 

Men think the knot may be untied by a 
" New Orthodoxy." We hear much of the 
" New Orthodoxy." The doom is in the name. 
New souls are what we want, — truth in the first 
place, and not in the second. Nothing becomes 
an " orthodoxy," new or old, unless it be al- 
ready half-sister to decay. There is no ortho- 
doxy ; and he only first begins to think rightly, 

who ceases ^^ desire or :ieed :?!ie. xid who trulv 
feels the force of that w:rd ?t Hegel's* Scr^^m- 
ing, and that yet ^rearer ^-zrl ct Ker"\ 
All things are all a process. — r-r:— x -i-. 
No revival, whether of Gothic Architecture or 
Greek Fathers, is z^'y<^^ for much, if it be a 
mere revival and made an end in itself, and be 
not viewed as a moment in ad\"ance and in a 
larger synthesis. 

Each reformation has in it much the same 
elements and types as others. A study of ref~ 
ormation in the sixteenth century is a study of 
reformation in the nineteenth. Luther, too, 
had to deal with New Orthodoxy, and find how 
ineffectual it was for the great task set for the 
time. The characters of Luther and Erasmus 
exhibit in better contrast, perhaps, than is 
found anywhere else in history, the two types 
of progressive men brought to the front by 
every great reform, — the genial, cultivated 
man, as cognizant as the other of the vice and 
falsehood of the old, and disposed to help on 
the new as fast and as far as it may be done 
without occasioning commotion or drawing op- 
probrium to himself; and the simple, earnest 
man, who grasps the new with intense convic- 
tion, and preaches it with outspoken fearless- 
ness and faith, be the commotion what it may 



and come whatever consequences to himself. 
" On one side," says Mr. Froude, in his noble 
essay on the times of Erasmus and Luther, 
" there are the large-minded latitudinarian phi- 
losophers, — men who have no confidence in the 
people, — who have no passionate convictions ; 
moderate men, tolerant men, who trust to edu- 
cation, to general progress in knowledge and 
civilization, to forbearance, to endurance, to 
time, — men who believe that all wholesome re- 
forms proceed downwards from the educated to 
the multitudes ; who regard with contempt, 
qualified by terror, appeals to the popular con- 
science or to popular intelligence. Opposite to 
these are the men of faith — and by faith I do 
not mean belief in dogmas, but belief in good- 
ness, belief in justice, in righteousness, above 
all belief in truth. Men of faith consider con- 
science of more importance than knowledge, or 
rather as a first condition, without which all the 
knowledge in the world is of no use to a man, 
if he wishes to be indeed a man in any high 
and noble sense of the word. They are not 
contented with looking for what may be useful 
or pleasant to themselves : they look by quite 
other methods for what is honorable, for what 
is good, for what is just. They believe that, if 
they can find out that, then at all hazards and in 



spite of all present consequences to themselves 
that is to be preferred. . . . When the air is 
heavy with imposture, and men live only to 
make money, and the service of God has be- 
come a thing of words and ceremonies, and all 
that is high and pure in man is smothered, the 
fire bursts out in these higher natures with a 
fierceness which cannot be controlled ; and, 
confident in truth and right, they call fearlessly 
on the seven thousand in Israel who have not 
bowed the knee to Baal to rise and stand by 
them. They do not ask whether those whom 
they address have wide knowledge of history 
or science or philosophy : they ask rather that 
they shall be honest, that they shall be brave, 
that they shall be true to the common light 
which God has given to all his children. They 
know well that conscience is no exceptional 
privilege of the great or the cultivated, that to 
be generous and unselfish is no prerogative of 
rank or intellect. Erasmus considered that, for 
the vulgar, a lie might be as good as truth, and 
often better. A lie, ascertained to be a lie, to 
Luther was deadly poison, — poison to him, and 
poison to all who meddled with it. In his own 
genuine greatness, he was too humble to draw 
insolent distinctions in his own favor, or to be- 
lieve that any one class on earth is of va^xt im- 



portance than another in the eyes of the Great 
Maker of them all. ... To Erasmus, truth was 
not the first necessity. He would prefer truth, 
if he could have it. If not, he could get on 
moderately well upon falsehood. Luther could 

In his own heart, Erasmus welcomed Luther ; 
and he applauded him just as long and as far 
as it was comfortable. " Luther is like Eras- 
mus," said the Heidelberg critics, at the time 
of the Diet of Worms, " except that he openly 
professes what Erasmus is satisfied with insin- 
uating." "Luther," said Erasmus, in the be- 
ginning, "has taken up the cause of honesty 
and good sense against abominations. . . . The 
theologians do not try to answer him. They 
do but raise an insane and senseless clamor, 
and shriek and curse. Heresy, heretic, heresi- 
arch, schismatic, antichrist, — these are the 
words which are in the mouths of all of them ; 
and, of course, they condemn without reading. 
I warned them what they were doing. I told 
them to scream less, and to think more." 

But, when the real struggle came, Erasmus 
was good for nothing, and worse than good for 
nothing, — a clog upon the wheels of progress. 
Erasmus means amiable, Desiderius Erasmus 
is the whole name, — he bestowed it upon him- 




self. Each word is amiabUy Latin and Greek 
alike. Amiable^ amiable! But the time was 
quite past for amiable men. Erasmus was as 
\ obsolete, when Luther s hammer rang upon the 
\ church door at Wittenberg, as Falkland, when 
the time had come for Milton, Vane and Crom- 
well. " Let others affect martyrdom," he said. 
" I have no inclination to risk my life for truth." 
No disposition to a trip to Worms, on his part ! 
" Men should not attempt everything at once," 
he said, "but rather step by step." Ah, dear, 
moderate man, the generation had passed in 
which men were to be saved by taste and ele- 
gant Latinity, and you shall straightway be bur- 
ied under very inelegant but perfectly intelli- 
gible pamphlets by Martin Luther. Martin is 
another form, they tell us, of Mars, the god 
of war ; and Luther means a people's courage or 
a people's sword, — or, more likely, as others say, 
pure, the same as the word lauter. The gods 
do seem sometimes to preside at christenings. 
** The wisdom that is from above is first pure, 
and then — amiable," says the inspired text ; and 
this is never so true as in great times of refor- 
mation. A little divine cleaving and piercing, 
— war, not amiability, — that was the thing 
wanted then and there ; the sword of the spirit, 
not the spirit in the form of a dove. Doves 
again by and by. 



" Once sure that the doctrine we teach is 
God's Word," said Luther, "once certain of 
this, we may build thereupon, and know that 
this cause shall and must remain." No dis- 
order need disturb us ; nor are the immediate 
fortunes of the cultures and amenities of much 
account. It is of the nature of all great new 
truth that, in its own way, it brings not peac'B)— ^ 
but a sword. It brings moral disorder often 
to him whose old formula it drives out. Let 
us not, therefore, say that truth is immoral ; let 
us not, therefore, teach untruth. In the years, 

— no matter about the days, — untruth alone 
is immoral ; and that is immoral and paralyz- 
ing, both to him who takes and him who gives 
it. There is a bad spirit and there is a good 
spirit, in which truth may be asserted and the 
false denied, — the spirit of Mephistopheles 
and the spirit of Luther; but untruth can be 
taught in no good and strong spirit, and to 
no good end. 

To the young men and women of the land, 

— our country, which for the coming time has 
need of the most stalwart manhood and woman- 
hood we can cultivate, — to you especially, my 
brothers and sisters, this word is committed, 
in the hope that it may strengthen the resolve 
in some, that in religion their communication 



shall be Yea and Nay. Whether Yea or Nay 
does not matter, — Nay to each false thing pro- 
posed to you, Yea to each true thing. You 
shall find the resolute and constant Nay to the 
false thing the sure way, and the only one, to 
the firm Yea of real conviction and the peace 
which passeth understanding. So it was with 
Luther. The last word of the great Protestant 
was a great affirmation. "Do you die," they 
asked him, after their manner, " firmly profess- 
ing the faith you have taught ? " He looked 
for a moment on them, and summoned the last 
strength for the one word, with joyful empha- 
sis, "Yes!" Had they said. Do you not be- 
lieve the old doctrine again? Do you not 
repent your work against the Church } it 
would have been, with the same emphasis, 
No ! Protest and faith were to him the same : 
the Everlasting No was one with the Ever^ 
lasting Yea. 


By EDWIN D. MEAD, i vol. i6mo. $i.oo. 

After the vast amount of material relative to Carlyle which has found 
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Edited, with Introduction, by Edwin D. Mead. 


I. Introductioii, upon Mr. Brooke's Life and Works and the Signifi- 
cance of bis New Movement; a. Faith: 3. God is Spirit, I.: 4. God is 
Spirit, II. ; 5- The Childhood of God ; 6. The Light of God m Man ; 7. The 
Grace of Tesus Christ; 8. The Intellectual Development of Christ 5 ^ The 
Fitness of ChrtrtianHv for Mankind, I. ; zo. The Fitness of Christianity for 
Mankind, II. ; ir. Toe Changed Aroect of Christian Theolog;y ; la. Biblical 
Criticism ; 13. The Atonement; 14. Devotion to the Conventional ; zc. Tlie 
Religion of Si^ps ; 16. The Naturalness of God's Judgments ; 17. Lobetty ; 
18. The Individuad Soul and God ; 19. Immortality, I. ; 20. Immortafity, 
II. ; ax. Immortality^ III. ; 22.^ Immortalitv, IV. 

With an Appendix oontaininjg the mucn discussed letter to the coogrcgar 
tion of Bedfonl Chapel, in which Mr. Brooke axmounced his withdrawal 
from the Church of £iu4and, and the sermon, " Salt without Savor," in 
which he more fully statea his reasons for the step. 

This new volume of sennons by the greatest English liberal 
preacher, selected chiefly from his later works, has been pre- 
pared for the special purpose of illustrating his theology and 
the general character of his religious thought, which have now 
become matters of such peculiar interest by reason of his sep- 
aration from the Church of England. The volume forms 
altogether the completest possible index to the nature and 
development of Mr. Brooke's thought, and is calculated to 
render an invaluable service at the present time, when men 
everywhere are so eager and anxious for the clear and solvent 
word upon the questions of religion. 

Cloth, 1 2mo, 366 pages. . . . « . Price $1.50. 

For soli fy all BookselUrs, Sent, postpaid, on receipt of price 

hy the Publisher, 

GEO. H. ELLIS, 141 Franklin Street, Boston.